Bankers’ behaviour must change

The latest news that thanks to agriculture’s strong growth, the economic growth figure had dramatically gone up to nearly 9 percent must cheer all lovers of agriculture! So, farming still matters in the national priorities? But what about the politicians mindset? The PM/FM’s mindset towards farmers? No way to know! This is just to remind our politicians and ministers that after all agriculture is still the country’s only backbone, you talk all the time about budget deficit or other!
May be a time may come when the government might have to give subsidies for farmers to stay on the farms! Such is the plight of farmers!

Now, there is already a big migration of people from the rural areas to the cities. Educated young-men and girls had left the villages and go for jobs in the nearby towns. There are any number of opportunities and jobs. Even the Dalit young-men and girls now dont do any farm work. The problems of farmers at the grassroots level are increasing! Not reducing! At the villages the sufferings of average farmers are rising.

Bankers are all still behaving like pawn brokers. We have a non-talking Prime Minister and a more talking Finance Minister! The Ministers in Delhi dont acknowledge the letters, let alone reply to letters.

Mr.Sharad Pawar, the Agri minister doesn’t even care for our e- mails. So, what chance these ministers might care for farmers issues. The other day there was this protest meet of farmers representatives in Mysore, attended by Mahendra Singh Tikait, the National Kisan Party leader over the “anti-farmer” situation in the country. That was a day after Manmohan Singh visited Mysore. What an irony! Singh talked confidently about his government’s liberalisation policies paying dividends. Yet, the ground level realities are rather grim. Also the day was also marked by large scale Naxalite killings in Karnataka itself! The situation in rural India is not at all happy.
Incidentally, in a district identified by Naxalite menace, we are undertaking a farmers contract farming project. The banks, PSBs, take such a long time, they behave like government departments time is wasted on precisely unnecessary queries. No one knows whether a bank loan will come through, or at what interest rate etc.

We are engaged in promoting farming projects, agribusiness ventures and we know first hand what a great hurdle it is to deal with the grass roots level officialdom!

Honestly, we have to share with the readers the truth that when we approach a bank for funds to take up, say, contract farming projects involving say 100 small farmers, we are not in a position to know whether the banks will finally give a loan or not!

In a recent case where near 100 farmers are involved in contract farming project, the branch banks got the farmers 13 year’s unencubrance certificates etc. Afterwards, the bank still asks so many irrelevant queries! Some three months gone! And yet no firm credit is available! Agriculture, a seasonal activity, only suffers. For whose benefit bankers operate? There is still something rotten in our banking system. Chairmen of banks, more so public sector banks, must see what is still the missing element in the bankers’ training inputs. Village revenue petty officials demand still bribes from farmers!

Anyway, this is the grass roots reality! One positive development is that progressively the farm business is getting noticed. There are few motivated farmers, farmers groups. These are the unsung heroes, as we see them. Corruption has to be wiped out at the grass roots levels. Otherwise, valuable time and economic opportunities will be denied to farmers. Time is money. Opportunities are wealth. The economic liberalisation for farmers has to start with reforming the revenue dept. The computerisation of land records to minimum number of records for bank loans has to be clearly laid down urgently. The Finance Minister fixed 24 to 48 hours for tsunami victims to get loans. Why not he think of such a time limit for farm loan dispersal?

Farmers are still not bold enough to take up profitable alternative crops or business enterprises. To be very frank, most of those who come to us for help are not full-time farmers yet, it is the people with entrepreneurial skills or motives who come to us. But the situation is changing faster! Anyway, the fact that still there are everyday success stories! That is the only good news. The very obstacles would create situations where the governments would be defeated and new governments would come and ,let us hope, good deeds would be done!

Farmers must be helped in time and also encouraged to go for innovative business development models.

This is what Vadamalai is doing.

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