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Karnataka Debt Relief Bill a boon to farmers

The New Indian Express logo The New Indian Express 14-02-2019 Express News Service
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BENGALURU: The Legislative Assembly passed the Karnataka Debt Relief Bill-2018 on Wednesday, to ease the burden on the wallets of small farmers, landless agricultural labourers and the economically weaker sections. The bill will remain in effect for a period of one year after it comes into force, following presidential assent.

This legislation assumes significance because, on average, two cases of farmer suicides are reported from Karnataka every day. National statistics reveal that Karnataka is among the top four states when it comes to farmer suicides, and a large part of these incidents are prompted by financial problems. This grim scenario has been made worse by the drought conditions in more than 90 per cent of the state.

The move will benefit lakhs of indebted small farmers and agricultural labourers across the state, many of whom are in perennial debt and carry it forward year on year, being able to pay only the interest and not the principal amount. This relief will set them free from the clutches of money-lenders and pawnbrokers who charge high rates of interest and are even said to use violence during recovery. There are thousands of unlicensed money lenders across the state and the indebtedness of the farmer to them could be over Rs 1 lakh crore. The institutional credit amount was in the range of Rs 44,000 crore.

Cooperation Minister Bandeppa Kashempur had pointed out that this will benefit lakhs of indebted rural farmers. Kashempur added that a lot of effort had gone into the preparation of the bill. The debt relief bill was initiated first in 1976 and again in 1980. When contacted by The New Indian Express, Kashempur said, “Now that this bill has been passed, we are working towards setting up a debt relief commission like has been done in Kerala.’’

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