Farmers accuse party of breaking poll promise to forgo farm loans
Sitaram Meena, a 75-year-old farmer in Nimehda, Rajasthan, is alone in his farmland with his son. He took out a bank loan in 2017 which is now worth Rs.22 lakh. To obtain the loan from Allahabad Bank, he had to mortgage his 44 bighas of land.
Before taking power in Rajasthan in 2018, Congress promised to erase loans to farmers in the desert state. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi went so far as to say that if elected to power the party would forgive farmers’ debt in 10 days.
It has been more than three years since Ashok Gehlot was sworn in as chief minister. Meena and her son, Mangilalwho was in charge of finances for his septuagenarian father, say they no longer have any hope that the government will keep its main pre-election promise of agricultural loan exemption.
“In 2017, we took out a loan of Rs.22 lakh. The bank demands that the loan be renewed or repaid in full within five years. Our land is currently mortgaged and we have no hope that the government will waive the loan” , Mena, Sitaram
His son Mangilal said the money was needed to acquire agricultural material for drilling and other purposes, such as Nimheraon the outskirts of Jaipur, suffers from low water levels and irrigation requires expensive equipment.
“Every six months we have to pay interest on the loan. We fear that if we don’t repay the debt, our land could be seized and auctioned off. We have no more hope in the Gehlot government. We don’t think he’ll give up on our loan,” said Mangilal.
Following the auction of agricultural land in Daoussa district last week, many farmers in the state fear the same fate will befall them.
Jagdish, a 53-year-old farmer from Nimheratook a loan of Rs.1.8 lakh from Marudhara Gramin Bank in 2018 at an interest rate of 12%, mortgaging his 4 bighas of agricultural land. But now, after more than three years, he regrets his decision due to poor agricultural output and pressure to repay his loan.
“Politicians arrive when they Needsvote for us. Otherwise, no one will look at our fate. So far, Congress has failed to deliver on its promise and there is no reason to believe it ever will. I manage to pay the interest on the loan by selling some of my assets,” according to Jagdish Meena.
Hundreds of farmers in Ramgarh Pacwara, Daoussa district, had received notices from government banks threats such as seizure and auction of their land for non-payment of debts.
The body of a farmer, Kajod Meena, was found in his field two months ago. There have been allegations that he took his own life after being pressured by the government bank to repay his loan.
Several farmers said they expected the promise of farm debt forgiveness made by Congress before taking office to be fulfilled, but that has yet to happen. They said they had not paid their installments because they thought the debt would be forgiven. However, when the loan amount spiked, they started getting notices. They now fear that their land will be confiscated and auctioned off, depriving them of their livelihood.