Bankers face 'culpable homicide' charge over farmers' suicides, warns panel

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Pune : Taking serious note of massive deficits in crop loan targets, a Maharashtra farm panel on Tuesday warned banks that if any farmer commits suicide, the concerned officer shall be charged with 'culpable homicide'.

Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalambi Mission (VNSSM) Chairman Kishore Tiwari told top bankers at a review meeting with the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) to clear their set crop loan targets by August 30 for the current Kharif season.

This year, the state has set a target of total Rs 43,873 crore as Kharif crop loans to the farmers, of which PSBs will give Rs 24,253 crore, district cooperative banks Rs 13,193 crore and the rest shall be disbursed by by private or rural banks, he explained.

"We were shocked to learn that the public sector banks have disbursed hardly 30 percent and the district cooperative banks disbursed around 63 percent of the crop loan targets for the current Kharif season 2018-19," Tiwari told IANS after the meeting.

He asked the SLBC to clear the Maharashtra government's plans to extend fresh crop loans to farmers as the state wants to bring around 80 percent debt-trapped farmers under the banking system to arrest suicides in 14 worst-affected districts.

"Against their target of Rs 24,253 crore for the current Kharif season, the PSBs have disbursed barely Rs 7,492 crore and the DCCBs have given out Rs 82,81 crore (against a target of Rs 13,193 crore), mainly due to the hostility of the banks and their officials who seem to be 'anti-farmers'," Tiwari said.

This is a matter of grave concern as the non-cooperative attitude of the bankers further hampers the government's proposal to give fresh loans to previous defaulters, he pointed out.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced the agriculture loan write-off covering farmers between 2001 and June 2017. But after 14 months, confusion continues to prevail in finalizing the online lists of beneficiaries on account of the banking bureaucracy, Tiwari alleged.

Tiwari issued a deadline of August 30 to the PSBs to wipe out their current season Kharif crop loans targets, failing which the responsibility for any farmer's suicide would be pinned on the concerned banks and their officers.

An estimated 1,200 farmers have ended their lives in different parts of the state since January this year, prompting the National Human Rights Commission to send a notice to the state and the Centre seeking an explanation.