AGRI LOAN REPAYMENT IN FLOOD-HIT SUNAMGANJ

Lenders at farmers’ heels

Zaman Monir . back from Sunamganj | Published: 00:08, Aug 24,2017 | Updated: 00:23, Aug 24,2017

 
 

Microcredit lenders have continued to put pressure for repayment of crop loans granted to farmers, who are still reeling from losses and finding it hard to manage daily meals after their standing boro crop was damaged by the early flash-flood in Sunamganj this year.
Despite the government’s instruction to keep postponed collecting loan instalment from the farmers until harvesting the next boro crop, the lenders continue to keep the farmers under pressure, the borrowers have alleged.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on April 30 had asked NGOs, microcredit lenders and banks to keep suspended realising the instalments from the farmers until harvesting next crop and to provide them with new loans, if necessary.
But, apart from putting mental pressure in different ways, the lenders are threatening the borrowers with not allotting any farther loans if they fail to repay the instalments in time.
Though officials of different microcredit loan providers, including BRAC, ASA and Grameen Bank, have claimed to have put no pressure on the borrowers this time, the actual situation in remote villages is quite the other way.
Pravat Devnath of village Adukhali Dakkhinhati under Bishwambharpur in the district said he had to sell off two of his goats in April and May to pay the weekly instalments against the Tk 40,000 he had borrowed from Grameen Bank when flood damaged his crop in late March.
Stating that payment of Tk 1,500 as weekly instalment was quite impossible for them now, Pravat said, ‘Thatched walls of my dwelling house have been damaged in the recent flood and I could not repair it for acute financial crisis.’
But, the field workers of Grameen Bank kept on putting pressure on him like hundreds of other farmers in the area for the instalments of loan by any means, he claimed.
Gopen Devnath of Adukhali Dakkhinhati told New Age that they had no source of earning in the rainy season, except fishing.
He said fish catches were scanty this year following the huge mortality of fish in haors in mid-April due to severe water pollution caused by emission of toxic gas from the submerged rotten boro paddy.
‘I have to pay a Tk 550 instalment every week against Tk 20,000 borrowed from BRAC, keeping my family members half-fed,’ Gopen said, adding that the BRAC officials warned him that he would not be allotted further loan, if he failed to give the instalments.
‘Without taking afresh loan, it would be hard to grow boro paddy in next season. So, failure to have a loan would be another major problem for my family,’ Satibala Hrishi, wife of Haradhan Hrishi of village Kalakandi at Bahara union at Shalla, said.
Talking to New Age on Sunday, she said her family borrowed Tk 25,000 from BRAC and around 70 per cent of it had already been repaid by this time.
Abharani Hrishi, a woman member of reserved ward 2 in the local union council, said each and every family of the villages in her area had borrowed money from at least one of the NGOs, while many had taken from more than one organisations.
‘The borrowers of crop loans are facing extreme difficulty this year after their boro crop was destroyed by the early flood,’ she said.
Samir Ali, a sharecropper of village Binnajhara at Jamalpur upazila in the district, said most of the ultra-poor farmers like him were in constant fear of being humiliated by the lenders for the unpaid loans.
‘I had borrowed Tk 15,000 from ASA, but could not repay any instalment since May and the field worker of the organisation has been visiting my home regularly to realise the instalment,’ he said.
On condition of anonymity, field worker of different microcredit organisations have admitted to New Age that the officials concerned ordered them regular collection of the instalments from the borrowers.
‘They have directed us to apply all kinds of tactics, save any physical attack, on the clients to push them for pay back the money in time,’ an NGO activist said.
ASA district manager Samiran Chandra Roy, however, rejected the allegations brought against their field workers.
‘Our workers have been ordered clearly for not putting any pressure on the clients for instalment,’ he told New Age, adding that their employees and officials visit the clients for many other programmes including issuance of new loan, sanitation campaigns and different healthcare-related issues.
Grameen Bank area manager Zahirul Islam on Tuesday, however, declined to make any comment in this regard.
Standing boro paddy of 1,66,612 hectare out of a total 2,23,082 hectare wetlands in the district was damaged by the early flash flood triggered in late March that affected 3.5 lakh farmer families, according to the Department of Agricultural Extension.
Organisations of the farmers and rights activists have, however, claimed that the more than 90 per cent of the standing boro crop was damaged.
Beside, around 50,000 fishermen were affected by fish mortality in the major wetlands and water bodies in the district in mid-April.
The recent flash flood that began on August 13 damaged 1,200 hectare seedbeds and planted aman paddy of around 9,500 hectare out 28,000 hectare, the DAE estimate shows.
Some 3,000 houses were damaged fully or partially across the district in the latest flood, according the local administration.

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