Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Oct 13:
In less than a week’s time, at least six farmers across Odisha have ended their lives due to loan burden and crop loss owing to deficient rainfall this monsoon.
While the farmers have succumbed to the loan repayment pressure mounted by the private lending agencies, the state government have reportedly extended loan to the tune of over Rs 5000 crore to the farmers this kharif season. If the figures are anything to go by, then where did this mammoth amount go?
Three days ago, Principal Secretary in the Cooperation Department Manoj Ahuja has shot a letter to the district collectors that Rs 5067 crore was extended to 17.27 lakh farmers in the state as loan for this kharif season as against a targeted Rs 5500 crore to be disbursed to the applicants by the end of this year.
Notably, a loan assistance of around Rs 8000 crore has been extended to the farmers in the state in the last two years.
Now the question arises if the cooperation department has generously offered loans to farmers on production of land records to the officials, then why are the farmers availing loans from private lenders?
As per a preliminary estimate, the farm owners are the maximum benefactors of the government schemes by availing such loans and the share croppers and marginal farmers are being left out. As a result of this, they are depending on private lenders and self help groups (SHGs).
Investigation reveals that the share croppers are not able to avail farm subsidy loans as they do not possess land records in their name and the owners’ get the major benefit of the schemes. The farm owners are availing farm loans at lower interest rate and diverting the money for other purposes. Ironically, the marginal farmers and share croppers approach the private lenders and get money at higher interest rate as compared to prevailing market rate.
The apprehension of bad crop or crop loss mounts on the farmers and takes a toll on them. The loan burden drives them to end their lives to escape the vicious cycle.
The state government passively admits the grim situation of farmers’ suicide across the state.
“The debate on this is continuing since last four years. The scenario has assumed alarming proportions in the state. During my tenure as Agriculture Minister, I have given a proposal on land reform laws to the government. I had proposed for giving recognition to the share croppers through amendments in the laws. But, a decision on this is yet to be taken,” Cooperation Minister Damodar Rout said.
After Rout assumed office as Cooperation Minister, the department has taken a decision to form joint liability group to identify genuine farmers and give them loans. However, it has not been effective so far. In view of this, the department had constituted a high-level committee to plug the loopholes. The committee had recommended for further study of land reform laws and the Law department’s views on it.
A proposal in this regard is pending with the state government, sources said.