TRIBALS IN south Bastar, fighting Naxalite menace and living in relief camps, are facing one more problem — burden of loans taken from banks under government schemes..
Bank estimates show unpaid loans of nearly Rs 200 crore against the tribals. But the tribals are helpless. Due to Naxalite threat they are unable to return to their villages and take up agriculture or any other occupation. They are living like refugees in Salwa Judum (campaign against Naxalites) camps, and are not in a position to earn a livelihood for the past five years.
In such a situation it is almost impossible for banks to recover dues from tribals. Senior Cogress leader and former MP M.R. Sodhi says that more than five lakh tribals live in south Bastar and most of them have joined the Salwa Judum campaign following Naxalite threats.
“They have been forced to leave their native villages and take shelter at relief camps; as their financial position is precarious, they have not been able to repay their loans and the burden is rising every day,” says Sodhi.
He says the state government should write off the loans as tribals had suffered drought earlier. Congress MLA of Bijapur Rajendra Pambhoi says thousands of tribals of nearly 600 villages have been forced to leave their villages fearing for their lives.
Minor forest produce was their major source of income which can be estimated at Rs 500 crore per year. They have lost this income after they lived in relief camps. In such circumstances, it is impossible for the tribals to clear their dues to banks, Pambhoi says, pleading that the Chhattisgarh Government consider their predicament sympathetically and take steps to write off the loans.
According to statistics available from banks in south Bastar, a sum of Rs 185 crore has been distributed among tribals under long-, medium- and short term loans granted under Swarna Jayanti Rojgar, Antah-Vyavasayi and other schemes. The interest on these loans have gone up to Rs 15 crore.
At a recent consultative committee meeting of the banks, it was disclosed that the State Bank of India disbursed a loan of Rs 13,777.84 lakh, UCO bank Rs 1134.51 lakh, rural banks Rs 1742.89 lakh, District Cooperative Bank Rs 1103.30 lakh and L D Bank Rs 816.82 lakh. The banks have urged tehsildars to initiate recovery of dues.
Recovery proceedings are on, Collector K R Pisda said, adding barring Konta and Usoor blocks, crop position is satisfactory elsewhere.