Association cites unprecedented drought, wants even interest to be written off

Amidst calls for waiver of crop loans from some of their colleagues, a section of farmers’ representatives of the district have appealed to the State government to relax the conditions for rescheduling cooperative crop loans and extend the benefit to all farmers. The credit rescheduling scheme announced by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa after declaring 31 districts as drought hit had strings attached to it, the farmers said.

In a joint representation submitted to T.Thiyagarajan, District Revenue Officer, during the farmers’ grievances day meeting here on Friday, farmers said as per a circular sent to primary agricultural cooperative societies, only loans taken for crops specified in the Annavari certificates issued by the tahsildars were eligible for rescheduling. Besides, farmers were asked to give an undertaking agreeing to pay 10.25 per cent interest for the medium-term loan and a penal interest of 3 per cent for defaults. “Given the unprecedented crisis faced by farmers in view of the drought, farmers demanded that all crop loans should be rescheduled without any condition. Besides, the interest on loans should be waived,” they demanded. The farmers pressed for rescheduling crop loans, along with an interest waiver, sanctioned by nationalised banks. The representation was signed by R.Raja Chidambaram, State Secretary, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam; V. Rajaram, Working President, Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Association; C.Masilamani and Ayilai Sivasuriyan, district secretaries of the farmers associations affiliated to the CPI and CPI(M) respectively, P. Ayyakannu of Bharathiya Kisan Sangam, and R. Nagarajan, president, Tamil Nadu Horticulture Crop Producers’ Association.

However, while speaking at a meeting, Mr. Ayilai Sivasuriyan said rescheduling of the loans would not give relief to farmers and demanded that all crop loans sanctioned last year be waived. A section of farmers led by Mr. Ayyakannu and Mr. Nagarajan alleged that farmers defaulting on crop loans were subject to harassment by officials of nationalised banks demanding repayment. Farmers’ representatives demanded sanction of compensation to banana crop that had withered because of drought. A large number of banana growers were in distress after having sustained heavy losses owing to the drought and gales, said Mr. Nagarajan. They were unable to repay their loans and hence the government should waive the loans.

Mr. Masilamani said cooperative societies had deducted Rs. 3,519 a hectare towards premium for crop insurance at the time of sanction of loans to banana growers. But till date, compensation had not been given. Some farmers insisted that officials conduct a survey to assess the extent of damage to banana crop in the district. Mr. Thiyagarajan said banana crop on about 10,000 acres of land were estimated to had been damaged and the district administration had forwarded a report to the government. Farmers reiterated the demand for stepping up release of water from Mettur dam to save the standing horticulture crops that were fed by 17 irrigation canals in Tiruchi and other neighbouring districts.