Leaders of farmer unions to take part in the protest scheduled for Monday in Ballari.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) representatives, namely Rakesh Tikait and Yudhvir Singh, are poised to join a protest in Ballari on Monday. The demonstration targets the alleged mistreatment of farmers throughout Karnataka by the Karnataka Gramin Bank (KGB). According to legislator B.R. Patil, the bank has drawn criticism for issuing repayment notices burdened with high-interest rates, prompting the call for action.

During a press briefing held on Thursday, Mr. Patil expressed his disapproval of the actions taken by the bank officials. He raised concerns about the bank’s practice of imposing strict repayment deadlines through loan repayment notices, coupled with substantial interest rates.

The lawmaker highlighted that an extensive group of 54 lakh farmers spanning 22 districts within the State are grappling with a challenging situation. These farmers, who collectively borrowed around ₹27,000 crore in crop loans from the bank, are currently burdened by escalating debts compounded by the imposition of high-interest rates.

Amidst a span of 10-15 years, the majority of farmers find themselves grappling with loan amounts that have surged five-fold due to mounting interest, amplifying their financial difficulties, he pointed out.

Highlighting the composition of the regional rural bank’s ownership, he elucidated that it operates as a collective effort, with a 50% stake from the Central government, 35% from Canara Bank (the sponsor bank), and a 15% contribution from the State government.

Despite the persistent protests staged by farmers in Ballari over the past eight months, there’s been a notable absence of support or attention from any State MPs or local leaders, as Mr. Patil lamented. He directed his criticism at all the State’s MPs, particularly Ballari MP Y. Devendrappa, for their silence on the matter within the parliamentary setting.

Taking his critique further, Mr. Patil underscored that even the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, who secured a seat in the Rajya Sabha from the State, has fallen short in raising this crucial concern at the central level.

Illustrating his point with specific instances, Mr. Patil brought forth examples where the financial strain on farmers was evident. One farmer, who initially borrowed ₹5 lakh in 2007, now faces a repayment notice demanding ₹28,77,607 (inclusive of interest). Similarly, another case involves a loan of ₹3,37,800 acquired in 2005, now subject to a repayment demand of ₹24,27,993 (with interest).

In a different scenario, a farmer secured a crop loan of ₹2 lakh from the bank back in 2018. However, by May 2022, the total amount to be repaid had surged to ₹3,06,082, showcasing the compounding nature of the issue.

To show their support for the affected farmers, Mr. Tikait and Mr. Singh are engaging in the Ballari protest. Alongside this demonstration, they are scheduled to meet Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on the same day, aiming to bring the matter to his attention and urge for a prompt resolution.

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