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Farmers' Association Demands Farm Loan Waivers From Karnataka Gramin Bank

Farmers who have procured agricultural loans from Gramin Bank are distressed because the interest has allegedly been compounding for more than 5-10 years in some cases.

File Photo.

Aggrieved Farmers across Karnataka, particularly in Ballari district, have approached the Reserve bank of India (RBI) to resolve their issues with Karnataka Gramin bank. The farmers allege that older loans are not being declared as Non-performing Assets (NPA) and are instead accumulating interest.

Over the last three years, flooding and excessive rainfall have destroyed crops across Karnataka. Farmers who have procured agricultural loans from Gramin Bank are distressed because the interest has allegedly been compounding for more than 5-10 years in some cases. The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Hasiru Sene (Karnataka State Farmers Association - Green Army) has demanded a one-time settlement (OTS) to ease farmer burden.

Mallikarjuna Reddy, 54, a farmer and activist from Ballari, alleges that bankers are withholding pledged gold until the loans are repaid.

Speaking to NewsClick, he says, “Farmers are willing to pay up to 30% of the principal, but the bank officials are giving excuses and claiming that we need to approach the RBI. Over the last three years, farmers faced tremendous losses in Ballari owing to the flooding of the Vedavathi river. We are making losses and unable to repay the loans. The State Bank of India and Canara Bank have allowed a one-time settlement (OTS) for farmers and accepted 10% of the principal.”

The Karnataka Gramin Bank is a public sector bank. The farmers were hoping for a fruitful meeting with RBI officials in Bengaluru. Farmer representatives were invited to the RBI office on March 29. They were promised a future meeting with Karnataka Gramin Bank officials to settle the issue. Meanwhile, the farmers have put up a protest tent outside the head office of the Karnataka Gramin Bank in Ballari. They are being represented by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Hasiru Sene. The protest was initiated on December 23, 2022, and is ongoing.

The farmers met CM Bommai when he came to Ballari earlier this month. He promised to take stock of the situation. Multiple crops are grown in Ballari, including paddy, maize, chillies, and millet.

Regarding his organisation, Mallikarjuna Reddy continues, “I started the Neeravari Bhu Rakshana Horata Samiti (Irrigated Land Protection Committee) in 2009 when the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government and Gali Janardhan Reddy were attempting to snatch fertile farmland to build a third airport in Ballari. The two existing airports don’t have a lot of traffic, and they were planning to build a third. We obtained a stay order from the Dharwad bench of the Karnataka High Court. That case is ongoing.”

According to members of the Raitha Sangha, thousands of farmers are affected by this issue and deserve immediate relief. A press release of the Sangha alleges that the Karnataka Gramin Bank usurped the COVID-19 compensation money received by farmers from the government. It was claimed as loan dues.

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