After eight farmer suicides in two months, Kerala government has declared major relief for farmers across the state, particularly for the flood-affected farmers in Idukki and Wayanad.

Moratorium on loan recovery proceedings has been extended till December 31 and Kerala State Debt Relief Commission has been asked to consider debt relief for Wayanad and Idukki farmers who had taken loans till August 31, 2018, the month the deluge devastated agricultural lands. Eight of the seven dead in the last two months were farmers from Idukki.

The one-year moratorium on farmers’ loans announced in the wake of the August floods has been extended till December 31. “This is not for agricultural loans alone but for all kinds of loans taken by farmers,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said during his post-cabinet briefing in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday.

The guidelines of the State Debt Relief Commission, formed in 2006 after a spate of farmer suicides across Kerala, has been dramatically relaxed. Besides providing major succour to Idukki and Wayanad farmers, farmers in other districts, too, will stand to gain. As per the existing guidelines, except for Wayanad, the commission’s cut-off date for considering debt relief was loans taken till October 31, 2011. For Wayanad district alone, it was March 31, 2014. Now, March 31, 2014, is the new limit the commission has been asked to set for all districts, except Wayanad and Idukki for which the new limit is August 31, 2018. “This means that the commission can provide relief to farmers in Wayanad and Idukki who had taken loans just before the floods,” a senior commission official said.

The commission has also been asked to be more generous. As it stands, the commission will pay 75 per cent of the repayment amount if it is Rs 50,000 or less. Anything above Rs 50,000, the commission will pay only 50 per cent subject to a maximum of Rs 1 lakh. The chief minister said the upper limit has now been pushed up to Rs 2 lakh.

This is not all. Up to nine per cent of the interest for the new loans taken for long-term crops like coffee, rubber and coconut will be provided from the chief minister’s relief fund. This benefit will be provided for one year from the time of taking the loan. The compensation for crop loss, too, has been upped 100 per cent from the levels fixed in 2015. For instance, the compensation for arecanut has been increased to Rs 300 from Rs 150, for cocoa and coffee it will be 200 from Rs 100, for pepper it would be Rs 150 from Rs 75 and for cloves it would be Rs 200 from Rs 100. The compensation for cardamom will now be Rs 25,000 from Rs 18,000 a hectare. The chief minister said Rs 85 crore would be urgently sanctioned for crop losses.

The chief minister said the new relief measures would be besides the special package announced for Wayanad and Idukki districts and also for Kuttanad area.(Courtesy: Ganashakti)