JAIPUR: Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday directed officials to stop the auction of agricultural land of farmers who could not repay their loans taken from commercial banks in the state even as the opposition demanded a complete farm loan waiver.
The banks are auctioning land under the Rajasthan Agricultural Credit Operation (Removal of Difficulties) Act, 1974 (RODA Act).
The auctioning of agricultural land of farmers who failed to repay loans has led to protests in Rajasthan.
A delegation led by BJP MP Dr Kirodi Lal Meena, along with farmers today tried approaching the chief minister’s residence demanding cancellation of the land auctioning process. However, the police took Meena into custody and dispersed the protestors.
As the issue turned political, Gehlot issued instructions to stop the auction of agricultural land of farmers who failed to repay the loans taken from commercial banks in the state.
In a statement, Gehlot said, “Due to non-payment of loans of farmers taken from commercial banks that are controlled by the Reserve Bank in the state, land attachment and auction action is being taken under the RODA (Removal of Difficulties) Act. State government officials have been instructed to stop this.”
The chief minister has also said that the state government has waived off the loans of cooperative banks and urged the Centre to waive the loans of farmers by doing one-time settlements from commercial banks. The state government is ready to bear its share in this also.
He said, “Our government had passed a bill in the assembly to ban land auction of farmers having agricultural land up to five acres, but due to lack of permission of the governor, it has not become a law yet. I am sad that due to non-compliance of this law, the said situation has come.”
He expressed hope that this bill will be approved soon so that further auction will not happen.
Many cases of issuing notices to auction the land of farmers who are unable to repay the loans have come to the fore recently, leading to discussions on social media. The main opposition party, the BJP has targeted the Congress government of the state over the issue.
Alleging that the state government failed to fulfill its promise of complete loan waiver, Meena said Congress in its 2018 election manifesto promised complete loan waiver but they have instead insulted farmers in the name of auction.
Meena said Congress promised a complete loan waiver in10 days but despite that, the land is auctioned and attached. He alleged that the notices have been pasted to attach the lands of 800 to 1000 farmers in Dausa, 600 to 700 in Sawai Madhopur, around 800 in Karauli, about 3000 in Alwar district, and hundreds of others in Dholpur-Bharatpur. According to a rough estimate, ₹10,000 crores of cooperative banks loan on 15 lakh farmers are pending.
In the memorandum to the chief minister, Meena mentioned a case from Dausa where the land of a deceased farmer Kajod Meena was auctioned on Wednesday. The farmer took a loan of ₹3.87 lakh in 2017 to dig a tube well, which with interest has reached around ₹7 lakh. Under pressure to repay loans and repeated requests from bank officials and employees, the farmer, a resident of Ramgarh Pachwara, committed suicide on October 26, 2021. Despite this, on January 18, bank employees and revenue officials tried auctioning his 15 bighas of land, which has a district level committee rate of around ₹75 lakh and market value of Rs1 crore. The auction was later cancelled.
He demanded cancellation of the auction of farmers’ lands across the state; action against the bank and revenue officials who forced farmer Kajod Meena to commit suicide; to waive his entire loan and provide a financial assistance package of ₹25 lakh.
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said, “The auction of entire land could not be done for a small loan. It was an illegal auction. Land mafia has their eyes on prime land. An investigation should be done against the bank officials.”
BJP state president Satish Poonia tweeted, “Due to the promise of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in 2018, the lands of farmers of Rajasthan are being auctioned, farmers are being forced to commit suicide. CM Gehlot is busy writing letters. If a little bit honesty is left, then waive off the entire loan of the farmers.”