The ‘indecision' of the government and bureaucratic laxity are hampering the disbursal of relief worth Rs.19.16 crore awarded by the Farmers Debt Relief Commission to indigent farmers.

Official sources told The Hindu that the slackness of the Cooperation Department in releasing the sanctioned funds had upset the distribution of assistance worth Rs.19.16 crore to scores of farmers who were awaiting government assistance to clear their loan arrears due to various banks.

The delay has been exposed at a time when farmer suicides have been reported from Wayanad yet again.

As many as 4,10,549 farmers who had taken bank loans and were rendered penniless due to a variety of reasons beyond their control had approached the commission seeking relief.

The previous LDF government had constituted the commission in the wake of the rising farmer suicides in the State.

The brief of the commission which started functioning on April 9, 2007, was to scrutinise the applications and waive the loans on merit. After painstakingly conducting sittings in Idukki and Wayanad, it recommended the government to declare Wayanad as disaster-torn district in July.

Despite having a budgetary allocation of Rs.130 crore, the government did not heed to the commission's recommendation to award Rs.15.89 crore and no relief was distributed till March 31, 2008.

The budgetary allocation for helping the impoverished farmers dwindled to Rs.50 crore in 2008-09 when the commission recommended award of Rs.23.89 crore. By then, the Union budget announced a loan waiver scheme and it came as a relief to some farmers in the State.

Subsequently, the State government sanctioned Rs.22.17 crore and the Registrar of Cooperative Societies, who was entrusted with the task of releasing the funds, gave Rs.19.82 crore to the banks.

The commission also recommended to waive all loans up to Rs.25,000 of farmers who have cultivable land up to an acre. But the government restricted the relief to agriculture loans.

Till March this year, the commission had recommended the government to award Rs.89,69,19,257 to the farmers in distress. The government granted Rs.62,45,52,375 and the Registrar of Cooperative Societies is understood to have disbursed Rs.43,28,99,193 leaving a balance of Rs.19,16,34,432.

With the new government assuming office, the disbursal of relief is understood to have come to a halt owing due to the lack of a specific directive to clear the arrears. The delay in clearing the arrears is feared to worsen the situation in the coming days, the sources said.

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