Editor's note: Khabar Lahariya, an independent feminist news platform reporting out of rural Uttar Pradesh with local women journalists only, is working on a series of video stories chronicling the performance of Yogi Adityanath’s government over the past one year. The focus is on three major policies: farmer loan waivers, Anti-Romeo squads and gauraksha. Firstpost will be publishing these reports as well.
Seventy-year-old Mithailal from Kharaunch in Bundelkhand’s Banda district, says that the government can take his life, his land, his home – but he cannot repay the loan that he has against his name.
A year ago, for the first time, he changed his political preferences, and voted BJP. "The Samajwadi Party promised loan waivers before and so I thought, when this government promised to waive a lakh, that of course they would. I voted for the Modi government because of this only," he admits.
And yet, here he is, crushed under a debt that has nine lives. Mithailal’s life is a sinister, heartbreaking illustration of the callous nexus between political parties and our financial institutions, to keep farmers in acute distress.
According to PK Singh, the manager at the Allahabad Gramin Bank in Naraini Tehsil, where he has an account, Mithailal is not eligible for the Yogi Adityanath government’s waiver of up to a lakh for small and marginal farmers. This, despite his five-bigha holding, his cracked and unyielding fields, his subsistence income from contract labour on others’ fields.
Mithailal can barely walk. His passbook shows credit and debit entries from February 2015 to October 2016: a loan of Rs 80,000 repaid in October 2016, and immediately renewed. His current outstanding loan is Rs 87,931 — a fresh loan which keeps his account from being an Non Performing Asset, but keeps him tightly held in the web of debt. The fine print of the government policy says loans renewed in 2016 will not be eligible for waivers.
A local middleman called Rajkiran, reluctant to reveal his current designation, having held 'lending roles' both privately and at banks, illuminated (off the record) the ways in which semi-literate farmers like Mithailal would never really need to interface with the bank at all, leaving their passbooks in capable hands like his.
Between political or government decrees, seductive schemes like ‘Kisan Credit Cards’ which provide subsidies on seeds and fertiliser in chronically drought-prone areas (yes, more credit for the credit fugitive), banks, and a zealous and entrepreneurial network of agents, farmers like Mithailal are in thrall to the system of continuous credit.
Watch Khabar Lahariya's report on the issue.
Updated Date: Mar 23, 2018 15:34 PM