An advertisement from the State Level Banker’s Committee (SLBC) that appeared in leading dailies in Kerala on Sunday has upset the government as it stated that recovery procedures on farmers loans will go ahead on defaulters.

Speaking to the media in Thiruvananthapuram, State Finance Minister Thomas Issac said this issue will be taken up strongly at the upcoming SLBC meeting to be held on June 25.

“They have written off Rs 5 lakh crore of outstanding amount of the corporates, but have come out with rules against the farmers and are threatening with recovery procedures. It’s not right to say that only paddy cultivation is classified under agricultural loans. If agricultural land means only paddy fields, then in Kerala it’s just 15 per cent. We will raise this issue at the SLBC meeting very strongly,” said Issac.

In 2019 alone, about two dozen farmers committed suicide after the banks strictly went ahead with recovery procedures even after the government had announced that due to the piquant situations faced by the state in terms of the worst ever floods last year, all loans taken by the farmers would get a moratorium till December 31, 2019.

At the SLBC Sub Committee on Natural Calamity (2018), one of the decisions taken was with regard to providing a moratorium on agricultural loans and loans to those borrowers whose income is largely from agriculture and allied activities. The committee clarified that banks may permit moratorium to those loans pertaining to flood-affected villages notified by the government, subject to the permission from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

However, in the advertisement, the SLBC said the RBI guidelines have to be followed by all banks and the moratorium ends on July 31.

State Agricultural Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar said the state government will take up this issue with the Centre.

“We will meet the RBI officials on this and at Tuesday’s meeting of SLBC, this is going to be taken up seriously. They now say that the moratorium ends on July 31, which is wrong. In fact, banks do have the right to extend the moratorium,” said Kumar.