Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday approved a series of measures to check suicides of farmers in Wayanad district on the basis of report submitted by the three member committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar.

A one year moratorium will be declared on recovery of loans availed by farmers from the State Housing Board, State Backward Classes Development Corporation and Vegetable and Fruits Promotion Council-Kerala. Penal interest would be written off. Besides, ten per cent remission of interest would be provided to farmers who have already repaid their loans from those agencies.

Announcing this after the Cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the media that commercial banks and cooperative banks would be urged to cooperate with government’s efforts to reduce the misery of farmers by delaying recovery. A special meeting of the State Level Bankers’ Committee would be convened for this. Mr. Chandy, Finance Minister K. M. Mani and Agriculture Minister K. P. Mohanan would attend the meeting. Besides, a meeting of State Cooperative Bank, State Cooperative Agriculture Development Bank and district banks would be held to discuss the matter.

The Cabinet had also decided to amend the Kerala Farmers’ Debt Relief Commission Act to extend applicability of the Act to the current situation in Wayanad. It had approved, in principle, the recommendation of the Jayakumar committee that the Act should be made applicable for defaulted debt up to November 31, 2011. NABARD would be consulted regarding loans taken from cooperatives.

Mr. Chandy said that the government would be examining the recommendation that the role and interest structure of credit agencies functioning in Wayanad should be studied. The committee had also recommended offering of a support price for agriculture produce, and the Cabinet had asked Mr. Jayakumar himself to study and recommend a mechanism and submit a scheme to the Cabinet for approval on November 23.

The other decisions of the Cabinet are the following.

Paddy procurement will be extended to Wayanad district.

A special monitoring and evaluation committee will be formed to keep tab on agriculture activities in the district and eliminate distress among farmers. Minister for Agriculture will be its chairman and the Agriculture Production Commissioner will be its convenor.

Government will consider payment of various subsidies in cash through banks.

Karshaka Mitra Forums will be started at the local level with the panchayat president as chairman. They will have representatives of voluntary organisations in it besides local agriculture and veterinary officers.

Government will again take up the demand for inclusion of works allied to agriculture under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act with the Centre.

The compensation for loss of crops caused by wild animals will be increased.

Replying to questions from the media, the Chief Minister said that the farmers who had committed suicides were mostly those who had taken up contract farming outside the State. Failure of the ginger crop and fall in prices caused their misery.

He said that though the previous government had allocated Rs. 220.8 crore for farmers’ debt relief, only Rs. 62.4 crore had been disbursed. The Debt Relief Commission had recommended assistance totaling Rs. 89.6 crore during the LDF rule. This was the record of government headed by Mr. V. S. Achuthanandan who was now criticising the present government over the suicides.