Staff Reporter

They promise strong action against illegal moneylenders

1,570 farmers who had taken loans from cooperative societies had committed suicideCooperatives to be strengthened with a view to providing sustenance to the farm sectorAdmit that there is confusion regarding the exact number of farmer suicides

KOZHIKODE: Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran and Cooperative Minister G. Sudhakaran have asserted that it will be the earnest endeavour of the Left Front Government to revive the farm sector in the State.

Briefing mediapersons here on Friday after a meeting of the Central panel of the Planning Commission to study the issue of farmer suicides in Wayanad, the Ministers said the LDF manifesto had avowed to uplift the agriculture sector and remove the neglect it suffered in the last five years. The Government was moving in the right direction, they claimed.

Mr. Sudhakaran said as many as 1,570 farmers who had availed themselves of loans from cooperative societies had committed suicide. The total amount of loan availed amounted to Rs. 5.36 crores. He said the cooperatives would be strengthened with a view to providing sustenance to the farm sector. Marketing societies too would be strengthened. Side by side, action would be taken against illegal moneylenders.

"Cooperatives had failed to be people-friendly. Lending by private moneylenders at an exorbitant rate of interest to farmers was a social problem that has come to the notice of the Central panel too," he added.

He said the Central panel had visited the State at an appropriate time, and the panel members were democratic in their attitude. While the loans of those farmers who committed suicide would be waived, a major suggestion being made was to make available loans to farmers at four per cent interest.

The other measures included a moratorium on loans repayment for middle-level farmers to be placed before the Assembly. A similar suggestion would be made to the State-level banks too.

Mr. Ratnakaran admitted that there was confusion regarding the exact number of farmers who had committed suicide in the State.

"The United Front Government is responsible for this ambiguity. The Left Front is in the processing of arriving at the correct figure within a week based on media reports, enquiries with the District Collectors concerned, panchayats and revenue sources," he said.

"What is vital is a combined operation by the agriculture, irrigation, cooperation and finance sectors to uplift the agriculture sector from the present crisis. The Centre has a responsibility to intervene since the policies of the UPA Government to a great extent are responsible for the predicament of farmers."He said the LDF was facing a big challenge as the agriculture sector in Kerala was in a bad state. Research carried out in agriculture was not percolating to the farmers.