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Kharge tells banks to finance irrigation projects

By Our Special Correspondent



Saroja Ramachandra of the National Association for the Blind receiving a certificate to mark the donation of a bus to the association by Vijaya Bank from the Minister for Water Resources, M. Mallikarjun Kharge, in Bangalore on Saturday. The chairman and managing director of the bank, M.S. Kapur, the Minister for Agriculture, K. Srinivasa Gowda (right), and Sadananda Shetty (second from left), former chairman of the bank, are seen. — Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

BANGALORE, OCT. 23. Banks, nationalised or private, should come forward to finance irrigation projects with soft loans and could even "adopt" a project or two each, the Minister for Water Resources and Transport, M. Mallikarjun Kharge, said on Saturday.

Speaking at a function organised to mark the 73rd Foundation Day of Vijaya Bank here, he said finance extended for irrigation projects would be for asset creation in the form of more prosperous farmers.

Funds crunch

Lack of funds had held up many irrigation projects in the past with cost escalation of up to 10 times over original estimates, Mr. Kharge said.

"This was a bank founded by farmers and not traders or moneylenders and should remember its origins by paying enough attention to agricultural lending,'' he said.

The Minister said that new irrigation projects and those being implemented in the State would need at least Rs. 25,000 crores if they were to be completed in the next five years.

The reason for the State Government approaching the World Bank or the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) was the scheduled banks were not offering differential lending rates, perhaps because of the restrictions by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Mr. Kharge said.

The Minister made a reference to the special issue of the bank's newsletter, Vijaya Vikas, carrying only a single page article in Kannada while devoting more than 100 pages to items in English and Hindi.

Trophies

However, the sentiments in the Kannada article such as "courage in adversity" and "vigilance" reflected on the action of three of the employees to whom he earlier handed over trophies. R. Shakila of the Chennai branch was awarded for helping the bank save Rs. 44 lakhs by tracing a defaulter.

Nityananda Gora of the Jorhat branch in Assam was rewarded for foiling a dacoity bid. C. Kannan of the Thrissur branch in Kerala was rewarded for spotting fake demand drafts.

Disparity

The Minister for Agriculture, K. Sreenivasa Gowda, said while housing loans were extended at less than 8 per cent interest, farm loans came at 12 per cent. This disparity should be avoided.

Lack of easy credit was one of the reasons for farmers committing suicide. Banks should understand this, he said. He commended the bank for its impressive growth.

The former chairman of the bank, Sadananda Shetty, recalled the enterprising spirit of one of the founders, Mulki Sundarama Shetty, who overcame a difficult time caused by the World War and afterwards and expanded the bank's operations to 500 branches across the country.

The bank with its origins in Dakshina Kannada was responsible for financing several restaurants, which took Udupi cuisine around India, he said.

The chairman and managing director, M.S. Kapur, and the acting chairman of Union Bank of India, K. Rathnakar Hegde, spoke. The bank donated a bus to the National Association for the Blind, Karnataka, on the occasion.

The president of the association, Saroja Ramchandra, said the bus would be used to transport special children to and from its day care centre.

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