By Ram Kumar Kaushik
If things move as Rajasthan government wants, banks and financial institutions will first have to convince Farmers Commission before recovery of farm loans. The state government is planning to introduce a Bill in the assembly for setting up Farmers Debt Relief Commission (FDRC) which would provide immunity to farmers against any coercive action including debt recovery by banks and financial institutions in case of crop damages. The assembly is likely to begin from August 2.
As per the Bill, farmers suffering from crop damages and failures may approach the Commission seeking loan waiver.
“Commission after assessing the condition of farmers and discussion financial institution may grant relief to farmers. The commission will operate round the year,” said a senior official involved in making the draft of the Bill.
Retired High Court Judge to head the commission
The commission would constitute five members including a retired judge of the High Court who shall be the chairman. Four other members will include retired IAS officer of ACS or principal secretary level, district or session judge, a retired banker and an expert from agriculture field. The commission will have a member secretary of the level of additional registrar general of cooperative department. For any hearing, a quorum of three out of five members should be there
The term of this commission will be for three years. However, government may extend the term of the commission and would have the power to terminate any of the member.
The Commission to have judicial power
The FDRC will have judicial power. If a farmer fails to repay loan to the bank due to bad crop or due to any calamity in the region, the commission can announce debt relief for the entire region. In such condition no bank can liquidate the mortgage land against the loan in that area. Also banks would not be able to move any other court till the time case is pending with the commission. The decision of the commission cannot be challenged before any civil court as it would possess the judicial power of a civil court. The commission can send summon to any officer or any other person in the interest of the case. Members will be free to go for field visits to assess the situation on ground.
The Commission can give direction to banks
The commission, if deemed fit, will have to power to lay down the process of loan settlement if the affected farmer is unable to repay the full amount.
The commission however, will have to hear out bank officials before arriving at any decision. It will have the power to reschedule or lower the interest rates of the loan.
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