Punjab: Agricultural bank issues arrest warrants against loan defaulting farmers
Punjab State Cooperative Agricultural Development Bank (PSCADB) has reportedly served arrest warrants to approximately 2,000 farmers who defaulted on their loans. Nearly 71,000 farmers owe over Rs. 3,000 crore to the bank, which has accelerated its recovery process. This prompted farm unions to protest the "anti-farmer" move. Notably, PSCADB has 89 branches in Punjab but doesn't come under the government's farm loan waiver scheme.
- Three farmers from Punjab's Ferozepur and Fazilka districts were recently arrested and released after paying a part of their loans and promising to repay the remainder soon.
- Punjab's Minister for Finance and Cooperation, HS Cheema, blamed the previous Congress administration for the "fiasco," saying it had initiated the process of arrest warrants against farmers.
- "I have intervened...no farmer will be arrested now," he said.
Nirbhai Singh Dhudike, President of Kirti Kisan Union (KKU), said, "We were expecting some compensation...over the low yield of wheat. Instead, they (government) have started serving us arrest warrants." "In the last meeting with former CM Charanjit Singh Channi, it was mentioned...banks will be brought under the ambit of loan waiver. But this government instead has started issuing warrants," said KKU's senior vice-president.
Officials of Punjab's Finance and Cooperation Ministry said roughly 70%—or 60,000—of the farmers were long-term defaulters of the state's cooperatives and agriculture development banks. They said these loan defaulters have made no repayments to the lenders in the past three years. Now, the government issued arrest warrants only for 2,000 of these defaulters who had landholdings of five acres or more.
Meanwhile, Rajeev Gupta, Additional Secretary of Punjab's Finance and Cooperation Ministry, said farmers were issued warrants only after following the due process. He said farmers are first persuaded to repay their loans after which "arbitration happens for sale of land against which loan was taken." "If all of the above fails, then...warrants are issued. Only three-four warrants have been issued to date," Gupta claimed.