Moratorium may scale up farmers' debt woes

Kottayam: A double-edged sword is hanging over the heads of the farmers in Idukki where the government has declared a moratorium on farm loans till October. After the moratorium ends, they will be forced to repay double the interest rate.

According to bank officials, the farmers will have to remit all the amounts, including interest, which will add to their burden. This is when most of the agricultural crops and cash crops in the district have been damaged in the floods and the prices have fallen. The moratorium was declared in August last after the deluge and after a number of farmers committed suicides.

The leading banks in the region say that most of those who have taken loans are not repaying the amounts.

"Due to the moratorium, not even those who have the capacity are not remitting the money. They will face a huge crisis later as they will have torepay this year's and next year's loans together. There is no reduction in the interest rate in the moratorium period," P.R. Rajesh, general manager of Idukki district cooperative bank, told DC.

The other branches of the bank also said that many were not paying the interest or the loans. P.C. Dasan, Kanjar branch manager, said that hehad come across some such cases.

The Moolamattam branch of Federal Bank has at least 25 such cases. "Those having repayment capacity are not paying the money or renewing the loans. This will in the long run become a burden on them. Most of them think that they can get away without repayment,"  branch manager Manuel told DC.

The Idukki district administration has estimated that  1,535 houses were destroyed, 3061 damaged and 11,530.64 hectares of crops lost since May 29, last year.

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