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Home / India News / Cyclone-affected people unable to draw relief as banks freeze accounts

Cyclone-affected people unable to draw relief as banks freeze accounts

Cyclone-hit residents in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam district are alleging that they are unable to draw the relief amount deposited in their bank accounts by the state government with nationalised banks having frozen them for non-payment existing farm and education loans.

india Updated: Dec 20, 2018 22:18 IST
M Manikandan
M Manikandan
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Fishermen dock their boats as a precautionary measure ahead of the arrival of cyclone 'Gaja', in Chennai. Image for representation purpose only.
Fishermen dock their boats as a precautionary measure ahead of the arrival of cyclone 'Gaja', in Chennai. Image for representation purpose only.(PTI file photo)
         

Cyclone-hit residents in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam district are alleging that they are unable to draw the relief amount deposited in their bank accounts by the state government with nationalised banks having frozen them for non-payment existing farm and education loans.

When cyclone-Gaja pounded the Cauvery delta on November 15, Nagapattinam was one among the worst affected districts. The squally winds have damaged around 2.50 lakhs houses and uprooted lakhs of trees, flattening coconut farms and other crops. The state government has announced Rs 4,000 for partial damages and Rs 10,000 for fully damaged houses.

Even as the government has released nearly Rs 124 crore to the accounts of cyclone-hit people, many are alleging that they could not withdraw the money since banks have blocked their accounts for default of existing debts.

35-year-old S Karthik, a resident of Pudupalli village in Nagapattinam, has lost his tiled house, 100 coconut trees and two goats.

Since he has applied for compensation, the government has credited Rs10,000 into his account with Indian Overseas Bank (IOB)’s Vizhundhamavadi branch on Monday. However, when he went to the bank with the hope of withdrawing the amount, the bank officials turned him away citing his outstanding debt.

“In 2015, I took Rs 15,000 as farm loan. But, all of us in the area lost our paddy crops due to the flood. As I am a customer with good credentials, the then bank manager assured of loan waiver. Hence, I did not repay the loan and continued transact as usual. However, when I tried to withdraw the cyclone relief, the present manager informed that my account has been blocked in view of the outstanding,” Karthik told Hindustan Times.

This has not happened to Karthik alone. Hundreds of locals from Puduppalli, Kaameswaram, Vizhundhamavadi and Vettaikakraniruppu fishing hamlets are also facing the heat from the banks.

Having taken an educational loan in 2014 for pursuing engineering, J Sudhakar, is also unable to draw the cyclone relief fund.

“I have a joint account with my father in IOB Vizzundhamavadi. We took Rs 1 lakh as an educational loan in 2014. I have completed my degree in May last and am still searching for job. Now, the bank manager has frozen my account and is demanding to repay the loan immediately,” he told Hindustan Times, asking whether this was the proper way for the bank to recover dues.

Cauvery P Dhanapalan, President, Tamil Nadu All Farmers Associations’ Forum urged the government to advise the banks to allow people to withdraw the cyclone relief.

“Though the loan repayment is essential, this is not the right time to squeeze farmers to repay loans. Not only in Vizhundhamavadi, this is the case in many places,” he said.

When contacted O S Manian, TN Handlooms and Textiles minister, who is a native of Nagapattinam district, said that the government has advised the district lead bank manager to pass directions to all banks to release the cyclone relief funds without any hindrance.

“The lead bank coordinates with all other banks in a district. We have asked the lead bank managers to issue advisories to the other banks against freezing bank accounts. Complaints are there against a few banks and we are looking into them,” Manian informed Hindustan Times.