Jaidev Mahto, 65, mortgaged 2.5 acres of land to repay a bank loan of Rs 25,000. A resident of Bardaha village in Dhanbad district, Mahato had taken the loan against his Kisan Credit Card (KCC) for Kharif crops that were damaged completely due to scarcity of rainfall this year.
Hemant Singh, 50, a farmer of Pyraguri village in East Singhbhum district, took a KCC loan of Rs 28,000 for paddy cultivation. Deficit rainfall in August and September has damaged 75% of his crop. The remaining yield is not enough to feed even his six-member family. Thus, Singh has decided to migrate to another state for his family’s livelihood and in order repay the bank loan.
Mahato and Singh are not the only ones to find themselves in this sticky situation. Lakhs of farmers across Jharkhand have taken KCC loans, and rains failing, are unable to pay back their loans.
NGOs working in the fields have reported that nearly three lakh farmers from Latehar, Garhwa and Palamu district alone have already migrated to neighbouring states for their livelihood and save some money to repay the loan.
“If we do not repay the loans, banks would declare us defaulters. We will not get loan for further crops as per the bank rules,” said Daso Bhuiyan, a resident of Bohita village in Palamu district. Bhuiyan migrates to Bihar every year.
According to a report by the state agriculture department, Jharkhand suffered 38% crop loss this Kharif season. Of the 260 blocks, 64 blocks faced over 50% crop loss and 62 blocks recorded more than 40% crop loss due to poor rainfall.
Meteorological department officials said the monsoon deficit in August and Septembers were 34% and 59% respectively.
This year more than 1.38 lakh farmers had taken Rs 334.89 crore of KCC loans from different banks across the state, according to the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC). However, it declared that it is too early for the farmers to be concerned about as they have one-year time from the date of receiving the loan to repay it.
Meanwhile, middlemen dealing in sale and purchase of land have suddenly become active. Farmers interested in selling their land are being contacted by potential buyers. But the state government has reiterated that it is too early for the farmers to even think of selling or mortgaging their land.
State agriculture minister Randhir Singh said, “Government is yet to decide on the farmers’ loan issue. As far as mortgage is concerned, no bank or landlord could mortgage the agricultural land of farmers.”
He said that government has taken series of steps to help farmers. “We have decided to return the premium amount of Rs 12 crore to around 4.5 lakh farmers covered under National Agriculture Insurance Scheme. Distribution of seeds for Rabi crops at 75% subsidy has been started. 50% subsidy on diesel has been provisioned for the farmers use diesel pump sets,” said Singh.
Interestingly, Jharkhand has not sought relief funds from the Centre despite facing a drought-like situation.
The minister said, “We have submitted the drought report to the Centre on November 6. We are expecting visit of central team for crop assessment very soon.”
(With inputs from Probal Sanatani and Vishal Sharma)