Agri credit by co-op banks decline as farmers suicides rise in Rajasthan

Data tabled in assembly shows that short-term crop loan disbursement by central cooperative banks in Rajasthan has declined from ₹16,830 crore in 2013-14 to ₹13,540 crore in 2016-17, a reduction of 19.54%.

jaipur Updated: Feb 10, 2018 22:23 IST
Manoj Ahuja
Manoj Ahuja
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Agri credit,Farm sector,Farm loan
An Indian farmer couple separate grains.(AFP FILE)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might be talking about doubling the farmers’ income by 2022, but a look at the data tabled in the Rajasthan assembly shows that agriculture credit by central and state cooperative banks in the state has been declining since 2013-14.

The report was tabled on a starred question by BJP legislator from Kota (south) Sandeep Sharma.

The documents show that short-term crop loan disbursement by central cooperative banks in Rajasthan has declined from ₹16,830 crore in 2013-14 to ₹13,540 crore in 2016-17, a reduction of 19.54%.

While the short-term farm loans of up to ₹3 lakh are given on 7% interest, the Centre gives an interest subvention of 3% and state government gives an interest subvention of 4% to farmers who repay the loans on time. So, effectively, the farmers who repay on time get interest free loan.

A farmer usually takes a short-term loan during the kharif and rabi seasons to purchase seed, fertilizer and cattle-feed and repays the loan after the harvest.

“At a time when there should be an increase in loan disbursal to farmers by the cooperative banks and organized sector, we are seeing a decline in Rajasthan which is unfortunate,” agriculture expert Devendar Sharma said.

“It means that loans from the unorganized sector at hefty interest rates are on the rise, and there is something wrong in the organised sector,” he said.

The documents also reveal that interest free loan disbursement by the Rajasthan state cooperative bank to farmers in Kota division has also been declining year on year since the past four years even as there has been rise in farmer suicide in the region.

While the total loan amount has declined from ₹ 1,976 crore in 2013-14 to ₹1,516 crore in 2016-17, the number of beneficiaries has come down from 2.84 lakh to 2.14 lakh.

In June 2017, five farmers committed suicide in Kota division, allegedly due to debt trap even though the state government attributed some deaths to “personal reasons.” The spate of suicides led state Congress chief Sachin Pilot to hold a press conference in which he said 61 farmers committed suicide in Rajasthan due to debt trap and faulty government policy since the BJP government came to power in the state in2013. The Congress has since revised the figure to 80.

The state government, however, begs to differ. “We have disbursed more farm loan in the last four years than the Congress government did during its five year tenure,” said state cooperative minister Ajay Singh Kilak.

“For 2017-18, as against target of ₹ 15,000 crore (until March 31), we have already disbursed more than ₹13,148 crore,” he said.

A reason (for fall in disbursement in Kota division) could be poor recovery of loans by the banks, a senior state cooperative bank official familiar with the matter, said.

“A farmer cannot take fresh credit until the bad loans are cleared off his books,” the official said.

Kisan Mahapanchayat patron Rampal Jat flayed the BJP government over the decline in agriculture credit in Rajasthan. “The government makes a lot of announcements for farmers but does not walk the talk,” he said.

“When farmers don’t get fair price for their produce, then they have little option but to opt for loan and if it is not available from cooperative banks then they are forced to borrow from money lenders at high rates.”

First Published: Feb 10, 2018 22:23 IST