Union Finance Minister P.Chidambaram on Saturday slammed urban dwellers for questioning the Centre for having increased the procurement price of paddy from Rs.650 to Rs.1,350 per quintal in the last nine years.
“The urban population is only bothered about buying rice at a low price. They do not care about farmers who toil in farm lands. Sixty five out of 100 people in this country are dependant on agriculture which is the backbone of the economy,” he said.
He was addressing the inaugural of the 2026 branch of Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) at Milaganur village in Manamadurai taluk, whose residents were mostly dependant on cultivation of paddy and cotton crops.
Recalling that the Centre had disbursed Rs.60,000 crore as agricultural credit in 2004 when he took over as Finance Minister, he said the target set for agricultural credit during the current financial year was a whopping Rs.7 lakh crore.
The interest rate for agricultural loans had been reduced from 10 per cent in 2004 to three per cent at present, if the loans were repaid properly. Such schemes had made the country achieve self-sufficiency in foodgrain production. “We have even begun exporting wheat and sugar,” he said.
Urging the people to demand bank loans as a matter of right, he said banks had so far disbursed education loans to the tune of Rs.50,000 crore to around 25 lakh students. “These loans are being raised by the children of farmers, casual labourers, barbers and drivers who would otherwise not be able to educate their children. Banks give loans for purchasing bullock carts, sinking borewells, establishing petty shops and so on. People must utilise them,” he said.
In his address, OBC’s Chairman-cum-Managing Director S.L.Bansal said the bank was doing business to the tune of Rs.435 crore at the time of nationalisation, and now its business had crossed Rs.3 lakh crore.