NEW DELHI: An Agriculture Ministry report has suggested that 58 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh last year, while 342 ended their lives in newly formed Telangana. Karnataka, where business tycoon Vijay Mallya’s business empire is mainly based, witnessed an average suicide of eight farmer per month in 2015.
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In the ministry’s latest figure for 2016, 57 farmers have committed suicide till February 18, which means one life per day.
The ministry has noted that several new initiatives have been taken to focus on farmer’s welfare by making farming viable. There are, however, no details on whether the government is considering loan waiver or restructuring of the loans. At present, loan is available to farmers at an interest rate of 7% per annum, which only gets reduced to 4% if there is prompt repayment. But government banks had no such condition in restructuring Mallya’s debt to the tune of `7,000 crore in 2011. State-owned United Bank of India had, in fact, given up hope to recover hundreds of crores from Mallya.
A letter written by the government-constituted task force, Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission (VNSSM), to Prime Minister Narendra Modi also shows fraudulent practices by nationalised and cooperative banks, adding to the woes of the farmers.
It said Joint Liabilities Groups (JLG) of farmers have been formed in collusion with some agro process corporate/ industries by preparing fraudulent and forged documents in the name of farmers to receive loans from the banks.
“Amount of such disbursement has been pocketed directly by such so-called agro process corporate/ industries, which are direct beneficiaries of amounts to the tune of several crore of rupees,” VNSSM’s letter to Modi said.
Field inspection by the government task force shows that most of the banks are able to meet the target through this modus operandi but such lending amounts have been siphoned off by the corrupt persons involved therein and entire blame is mounted on the heads of farmers and such JLG members who are not aware of such fraud in the name of agro credits.
The task force has recommended a probe by Special Investigation Team. Tiwari said present situation of farmers and direct agro sector is mainly due to inadequate credit facilities which is only extended to big corporate and people like Mallya.
In February 2014, Express had exposed the scam in farmers’ loan waiver scheme initiated by UPA government in 2008 to write off bank loans of 3.69 crore small and marginal farmers in 35 states and union territories.
The Department of Financial Services under Ministry of Finance had admitted that somebody who is not eligible got it and somebody who is eligible did not get it or alternatively there was a case of tampering or alternation.