Following a series of suicides by debt-ridden farmers in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday asked banks to halt recovery proceedings on loans taken by them in line with the moratorium announced by the government.
In a meeting held with the representatives of the State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) in Thiruvananthapuram, he said the Kerala government had announced a number of relief measures, including extending till December 31 the temporary prohibition put on repayment of all loans taken by farmers.
Mr Vijayan also requested the banks to have an empathetic approach towards farmers and understand the difficulties faced by them due to the recent floods and the resulting crop loss, Chief Minister's Office said in Thiruvananthapuram in a statement.
"Considering the situation, the banks should cooperate with the state government completely. In view of the moratorium, there should be no recovery procedures or other such actions," he said, adding no banks should be allowed to violate the order.
Asking the banks not to deny fresh loans to farmers to restart farming in the name of repayment dues, Mr Vijayan said the government would pay the interest of the new loans taken by them for one year.
The SLBC accepted his suggestion to fix the interest of the agriculture loan as 9 per cent, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Kerala's Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala staged a one-day hunger strike at Kattappana Municipal maidan in Kerala's Idukki district as a mark of protest against the alleged government inaction to stop farmer suicides.
Hitting hard at the CPI(M)-led LDF government, Mr Chennithala alleged that the extension of moratorium period was to "cheat" the farmers and the state government's relief measures were a "farce".
He urged Mr Vijayan to write off the agriculture loans and convene a special assembly session to discuss farmers' issues.
According to official sources, eight cases of farmer suicides were reported from high range Idukki district alone in the last two months.
One death was reported from Thrissur district, sources added.