Staff Correspondent

Farmers say rigid norms of nationalised banks are a hindrance in availing themselves of loan

A farmer says the transactions of ICICI Bank were in English which he did not understand

Farmers demand probe into the alleged cheating by the bank

MYSORE: The recent suicide by two farmers in Mysore region has brought to the fore the problems faced by farmers who have availed themselves of credit for mechanised cultivation.

While, H.M. Manjunath of Hospura village of Nanjangud taluk committed suicide when “private agents” hired by ICICI Bank seized his tractor because of his failure to repay instalments, Siddaraju of Harvu village in Chamarajanagar taluk allegedly ended life after receiving continuous demand notes from ICICI Bank for repayment of instalments.

According to sources in Regional Transport Office in Chamarjanagar, over 4,000 tractors were registered in the last four years and there are 10 to 15 tractors in every village in the district.

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader Kodiahalli Chandrashekar alleged that in their enthusiasm to abide by the direction issued by the Union Finance Ministry to double farm credit, banks are trying to lure farmers to purchase tractors. Sensing the “profitability,” the middlemen who sprang into action brought farmers to banks. They got benefited from both the farmer and the tractor companies, who were keen on clearing their stock, he said.

Though the loan was raised for engine, cultivator and trailer, farmers were reportedly given only the engine and tractor companies assured them of supplying accessories later, which they failed to do so. One tractor company in Chamarajanagar closed its branch overnight.

K. Siddaraju, vice-president, Chamarajanagar Tractor Owners’ Association, said he and other farmers in Kollegal were forced to approach the ICICI Bank, as the norms of nationalised banks for tractor loan were rigid.

Detailing the plight of farmers who have availed themselves of tractor loans, he said: “Banks sanctioned loans for the purchase of tractors freely, as it was beneficial to both managers of the bank and the tractor manufacturing companies.”

Basavanna (62) of Hosapura village said that every transaction by the ICCI Bank was in English and they got the farmers’ signature on various papers and they did not know on what papers they had signed. “It was an organised cheating and we fell in to their trap,” said Rajashekaramurthy, another farmer. “What will farmers, who are having five acres of land do with the tractor?” he asked.

Farmers demanded a thorough probe into the alleged cheating by the bank and the tractor companies in sanctioning loans and supplying tractors.

Chamarajanagar MP M. Shivanna said that he had filed a complaint with Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

Mysore Deputy Commissioner Channappa Gowda ordered a probe by the Joint Director of Agriculture into the allegations of cheating by the bank.

Interestingly both the farmers who have committed suicide recently availed themselves of loan from ICICI Bank. The question being asked is, while nationalised banks failed in penetrating the rural parts of Chamarajanagar, how could a private bank with higher rate of interest lure many farmers to take tractor loan? What forced the ICICI bank to lend loans to farmers, though they are aware of the risks in recovery, in view of the phenomenon of suicide by the farmers across the State?

To this, farmers say that they were lured to the private bank loan because taking from ICICI Bank was easy. The bank’s agent approaches a farmer and offers any king of loan and the loans is sanctioned within few days on mortgaging the land papers.

Mr. Chandrashekar told The Hindu that the sangha had cases of 150 farmers, who have availed tractor loan from ICICI Ban and decided to collect information on harassment by employing “private agents” and launch a statewide agitation. The executive committee meeting of the sangha would be convened shortly and a decision be taken to put an end to harassment by private agents of banks employed to recover loan from farmers, he added.