Staff Reporter

Kisan Sabha flays Government policy on agriculture

KOZHIKODE: All-India Kisan Sabha State council will organise a satyagraha of farmers in front of the Secretariat on January 16.

Coming down heavily on the State Government's policies towards agriculture, Sabha State general secretary Sathyan Mokeri said here on Saturday that the announcement of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that Rs. 138 crores would be disbursed as subsidy on interest on agricultural loans for farmers and a 3 per cent concession on interests for farmers prompt in repayment was just a repetition of earlier orders. An order by Director of Agriculture, dated September 25, 2004, contained the same promises. So also did other orders that year, dated February 9, April 14 and April 15. "These recent announcements hence is an attempt to eyewash the people," Mr. Mokeri added.

The Sabha was demanding a permanent solution to farmers' problems. "Agricultural loans up to Rs. 1 lakh should be written off. The Government's loan policy has to be reviewed. Marginal farmers should be given interest-free loans. Also, there may be schemes to repay the principal amount of agricultural loans in instalments. A total of 4 per cent interest can be imposed on loans for other farmers. But now agricultural loans are imposed with interest up to even 9 per cent. NABARD is refinancing loans at 6 per cent interest to other banks to be disbursed as agricultural loans. In fact, we are demanding that this interest rate of NABARD be reduced," Mr. Mokeri said.

The State agricultural sector was facing an unprecedented crisis. Over 1,300 farmers had committed suicide as they fell into a debt trap. Over 200 farmers committed suicide in Wayanad district alone in the last one year. The crisis in agricultural sector was a result of widespread disease on crops, large-scale import of agricultural produce as part of globalisation and damage due to heavy rain.

The revenue from agriculture had been dropping over the years. Mr. Mokeri demanded that if farmers have paid interest more than principal amount, then that extra amount would have to be repaid to the farmers. The Government would have to shoulder a total of Rs 700 crores only if it implemented this scheme. The Government should find the revenue to fund this scheme for helping out the 66 lakh-strong farmers in the State, Mr. Mokeri demanded.

The Sabha would be going ahead with more agitations. A decision in this regard would be taken at its State Council meeting on January 8.