Santosh Arsud (48), a farmer in Ner taluka in Yavatmal district, had applied for new crop loan. The farmer requires at least Rs 1 lakh loan, including the cost of seeds, fertilisers and labour cost, for cultivating soybean and tur on 6.5 acres land in the kharif season but has been twice turned away by the banks.
With Rs 48,000 unclear debt against his account, officials at a nationalised bank, from where he is seeking crop loan for sowing, have asked him to first submit no-dues certificates from at least four different banks in the district. They say it is a process to ascertain he has not taken multiple crop loans and part of banking norms that have to be completed.
The state government has given clear directives to banks to sanction crop loans, then why should a farmer be made to run from pillars to post for documents, Arsud asked.
With monsoons at the doorsteps, thousands of farmers across Maharashtra, like Arsud, are eagerly awaiting their turn for fresh crop loan. But the standard response from banks, farmers said, is they have “not received any official order from the higher-ups to sanction crop loans to debt-ridden farmers”.
“If we don’t get loans, the only option left for us will be to sell our cattle or goats to the raise money,” Arsud said.
There are 11 lakh farmers with a cumulative Rs 8,500 crore debt. Under its loan waiver scheme, the state government had cleared Rs 12,000 crore to make 19 lakh farmers debt-free. The state has 1.56 crore farmers.
The poor response from banks in disbursing crop loan to farmers, especially those with dues, has the state government worried, too. The state government has now sought the Centre’s intervention so that directives to the banks can be issued by the Reserve Bank of India.
NCP leader and Maharashtra Cooperative Minister Balasaheb Patil acknowledged that the process of crop loan disbursement will have to be expedited to help farmers seeking crop loan. “The total crop loan target given to financial institutions for kharif season 2020-21 was Rs 45,785 crore. Of which target for crop loan to district cooperative bank was Rs 13,524 crore. As against this target, they have disbursed Rs 6,258 crore which comes to 46 per cent. Unfortunately, the disbursement through national banks is poor. As against the crop loan target of Rs 32,261 crore, the crop loan disbursement till date is only Rs 2,300 crore, that is only seven per cent,” Patil said.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), monsoon will cover entire Maharashtra by June 18, setting the process of kharif sowing from June 22.
Expressing concern over the low disbursement through national banks, the minister said, “On May 22, the Maharashtra government issued an order stating banks should give fresh crop loans to all farmers, including those whose debts are not cleared.”
The request was made by both Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Deputy Chief Minister and state Finance Minister Ajit Pawar.
At the state-level bankers meet, the state government had informed that due to Covid-19 pandemic there were some financial constraints and hence the loan waiver process was stopped. “But all the farmers’ debt would be repaid by June-July. Since the state was giving the guarantee, the RBI should consider its request for sanctioning crop loans to debt-ridden farmers. However, it appears the state government’s request is not acceptable to banks,” Patil said, adding that another SLBC meeting will be convened again this week. “The state will also raise the issue with the Union finance ministry,” he added.
Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavlambhan Mission chairman, Kishore Tiwari, said the ground reality was worrying. “Skipping farmers with dues will worsen the agriculture crisis. The small and marginal farmers are without ready cash in hand. Farmers are still struggling to sell their cotton in the market as procurement centres started very late, from June, in some districts due to Covid-19.”
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