Farmers in Banda Terrorised by Debt, Drought and a Merciless Administration

28-08-14 Kshetriya Banda - Farmers Suicide from webBanda District. Early in the morning of 22 August, Jagpat Singh – a small farmer from Khurhand village in Banda district, was picked from his home by a group of men. Soon, he found himself locked up in a dark room in the Atarra tehsil (a few kilometers from Banda town) for the next 36 hours. The reason he was confined – he had failed to repay a bank loan taken 9 years ago.

55-year old Jagpat is a farmer who has only 12 bighas (3 hectares) of farming land. In 2005, Jagpat took a loan of 2 lakh rupees from the Allahabad Bank in Banda. This loan was taken under the Credit Card scheme initiated by the government to help farmers get loans and credit. With his small landholding and frequent drought conditions, Jagpat was unable to pay the loan. In November 2013, Jagpat received a notice on this matter from the Banda civil court. But no action was taken and no subsequent notice arrived. On 22 August, a group of officials arrived to collect the loan amount from Jagpat. He was confined for 36 hours. It was only after an intervention from his family members that he was released, on payment of 1 lakh rupees and the condition that he would sell off his land and now deposit 4 lakh rupees with the bank in order to pay off the loan.

Dr. Saheb Lal Shukla, the President of the Bundelkhand Kisan Union, said that in 2013 the Supreme Court of India had passed an order that no farmer would be pressurized to repay a loan of upto 1 lakh rupees. Even if the amount was higher than that, no form of coercion was to be used on farmers. He added that despite such a court order, banks still had middlemen and brokers pressurize farmers into repaying their loans at any cost, often convincing the farmer to sell off his land at throwaway prices.

Dr. Shukla said that he was planning on filing a case of contempt of court against those responsible at the Atarra tehsil. According to him, they have clearly flouted an order passed by the Supreme Court and they must be held accountable for how the administration behaved with Jagpat Singh. On the other hand, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (S.D.M.) of Atarra, Manoj Kumar defended the actions of the tehsil officials and said that Jagpat Singh was taken into custody only after a review of his case. He also said that the bank does not know of any such order by the Supreme Court as has been described by Dr. Shukla. As for the 1 lakh rupees taken from Jagpat Singh’s family, this was taken as a deposit to release him while the loan stays unpaid. His family was given a proper receipt for the same. A newly appointed Allahabad Bank Manager, Tulsiram, who took charge only a fortnight before the incident, said that he would be unable to comment on the case.

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