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Cuddalore sugarcane farmers caught in a bind

Special Correspondent

Crores of rupees remain frozen in banks

CUDDALORE: As far as the farm loan waiver scheme is concerned, the sugarcane farmers in the district have been caught in a bind. Their money running into crore of rupees has been "kept unauthorisedly frozen in the suspense accounts" of many banks for over a fortnight.

The farmers were not sure when they would get back the money, or whether they were eligible to get interest on the money, because the banks are non committal about the transactions.

These questions were raised at the farmers' grievance day meeting held here on Friday. R. Somasundaram of Wellington Paasana Vivasayigal Sangham said the sugar mills were in the habit of making payments through the banks.

The banks in turn would debit the loan amount (borrowed by the farmers) and deposit the remaining payment in the respective savings bank accounts of the farmers.

But after the Government had passed the waiver orders, the banks were in a dilemma as to whether debit the loan or to return the money to the farmers.

In the absence proper guidelines in this direction, the banks were simply holding back the money in the "suspense accounts." Even the payments of those farmers who had obtained the "no due certificates" too were thus withheld.

Kothattai Arumugham of Land Owners' Association faulted the banks' claim that there were no guidelines regarding such payments. He argued, in that case, there were no specific orders for the banks to keep the money.

`Objectionable practice'

Karmangudi Venkatesan Theevalur Anai Paasana Vivasayigal Sangham pointed out that the ICICI Bank was not even issuing passbooks to the farmers and whenever they sought to know the balance in their accounts, they were made to cough out Rs 28 per page of the statement to which the farmers took strong exception.

R. Vriddhagiri of Sri Ambiga Sugar Mills Area Sugar Cane Growers' Association said there was no clear perception among the bankers about the status of the jewel loans obtained by the farmers.

He noted that the farmers used to pledge their jewels to tide over an exigency, and as such the jewel loans should also be waived.

Another issue that needed to be resolved was the custom of the cooperative banks to retain 10 per cent of the loan amount as the share capital. In the event of the loan waiver, the farmers were entitled to get back the amount thus deducted, but no banks were willing to do so.

Mr. Vriddhagiri called upon the banks to return the documents kept as collaterals and also issue "no objection certificates" to those farmers, who wished to migrate to other banks. District Collector Gagandeep Singh Bedi promised to look into these issues.

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