Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar on Monday asked banks in the state to adopt a more humane approach, especially towards farmers.
In the aftermath of last year's floods, the worst ever to hit Kerala in a century, banks in the state have been using the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002, (also known as the SARFAESI Act) to recover loans from farmers.
As part of this recovery process, notices are being sent to auction residential or commercial properties of those who default.
Close to 15,000 farmers in Idukki district alone have received recovery notices from both commercial and cooperative banks, with reports of this leading to about half-a-dozen suicides over the past two months.
According to official statistics, the floods damaged around 11,000 hectares of agricultural land in Idukki leaving almost 35,000 farmers in distress.
Asked about the situation, the State Agriculture Minister said: "The situation today is such that panic spreads the moment someone receives a recovery notice from a bank. But farmers need not panic at all.
"The state cabinet is having a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the matter. The Chief Minister has also called a meeting of the State Bankers Committee on Wednesday. It is high time banks in Kerala adopt a more humane approach," said Kumar.
In the Cabinet meeting due on Tuesday, the state government is expected to ask the State Banker's Committee for a moratorium on recovery of all agricultural loans taken in the flood-affected districts.
State Cooperative Minister Kadakampally Surendran told the media: "Yesterday, we directed all cooperative banks in the state not to send any more recovery notices. I am meeting officials of the Reserve Bank of India and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development on March 12 to discuss the issue."