They were protesting against the distraint proceedings initiated by banks

Traffic on the busy Tiruchi-Chennai National Highway was disrupted for over an hour on Tuesday morning after members of the Bharathiya Kisan Sangam blocked the road with their tractors near No. 1 Tollgate on the outskirts of the city protesting the distraint proceedings initiated by banks against farmers defaulting on agricultural loans.

A total of 240 farmers were taken into custody by the police following the agitation.

Farmers resorted to the agitation after the association, a non-political organisation, was denied permission to picket the State Bank of India’s zonal office in the city. The association alleged that banks were confiscating tractors of farmers who had failed to repay loans and farmers would rather return the vehicles to the banks.

Revenue officials had convened a meeting with bankers and the association representatives here last week when bankers in Tiruchi and Srirangam blocks had reportedly agreed to temporarily suspend distraint proceedings against defaulting farmers.

However, P. Ayyakannu, association’s State vice-president, who led the agitation on Tuesday, alleged that banks continued to seize tractors and auction jewellery pledged by farmers. “The government should waive all agricultural loans in view of the losses suffered by farmers because of poor monsoon,” he said. The association demanded remunerative prices for all farm produce and linking of rivers to ensure water for irrigation.

As police prevented farmers and their tractors from entering the city, they had to block traffic by parking their vehicles on the highway, Mr. Ayyakannu said. The agitation caused a huge traffic snarl on the highway for about 45 minutes as vehicles lined up on both directions.

The farmers were taken into custody after they failed to heed the pleas of Superintendent of Police S. Rajeswari to disperse. Police removed the tractors to clear the way.