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Bank loans elude Tripura farmers

Agartala, Jan. 2: Tripura is still known to be principally as an agrarian state with agricultural yields contributing almost the lion’s share to the annual gross state domestic product (GSDP), but the non-availability of bank finances in the form of loans and advances has emerged as a major problem for further development and expansion of agriculture.

According to data made available by the state-level bankers’ committee, all the nationalised and rural regional banks like Tripura Gramin Bank and state co-operative bank have a total deposit of Rs 14,000 crore, but out of this, only Rs 350 crore have been advanced as loans to the primary or agriculture sector which forms just 2.5 per cent of the total deposit.

As nationalised bank branches hardly entertain any claim or petition for agriculture loans, farmers make a beeline for the 136 branches of Tripura Gramin Bank across the state and 86 branches of Tripura State Co-operative Bank seeking loans.

Official sources in the state’s department of institutional finance said banks were not keen to sanction loans in the agriculture sector for fear of uncertainty over repayment though according to an assessment, the fear is baseless.

“The state government has passed an act titled Public Demand Recovery Bill which makes default in repayment of loan a criminal offence. Already one person is serving jail term in the Shantir Bazar area of Belonia subdivision for defaulting on repayment of bank loan. But most of the banks here are more interested in advancing service sector loans to government employees because repayment from salaried people is almost guaranteed,” a source said.

He added that in “meeting after meeting” all banks were being urged to facilitate easy sanction of loans for the agriculture sector but to no effect. “This is retarding the growth of agriculture sector for which capital support is urgently needed. One reason why the state government’s 10-year perspective plan for self-sufficiency in food has failed is lack of bank finances,” the source said.

Apart from this, the adverse credit-deposit ratio in Tripura is also a major bottleneck in the development of the state.

“At the height of insurgencies in the nineties, the CD ratio of nationalised banks dipped to only 21 per cent though regional, rural banks like Tripura Gramin Bank (TGB) and Tripura State Co-operative Bank (TSCB) maintained a CD ratio of around 35 per cent. Even after insurgency ended, the CD ratio of nationalised banks is not more than 39 per cent though TGB and TSCB have the ratio at more than 55 per cent now,” a source in the department of institutional finance said.

The source rued that at the national level, the CD ratio is around 60 per cent whereas in states like Punjab, the ratio is more than 80 per cent.

Lack of availability of adequate bank loans for the agriculture sector has become a sore point with agriculturists in the state with Krishak Sabha, the agricultural front of the CPM, preparing to launch a statewide agitation for loans.

Congress MLA Birajit Sinha who led several protests earlier for bank loans is also preparing to launch a fresh agitation for loans in Unakoti district which he represents in the Assembly.

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