Gangtok, June 4: A day after a meeting with bank officials, Minister of Agriculture & Horticulture, Lok Nath Sharma on June 3, conducted a press conference to inform of a series of new decisions which were made during a meeting of Banks and Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) representatives concerning credit linkage and extension.

Sharma said that the State Government is aware of farmers and small entrepreneurs who have the passion to work and while this passion is often stalled due to the absence of financial assistance or support of one’s endeavours. Keeping this mind, the Government has decided to connect farmers with the bankers for all activities related to agriculture, horticulture, and animal husbandry, and to also boost the agriculture sector of Sikkim.

The State government and banks operating in Sikkim have allied to provide more subsidy for the green economy, along with increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through sectors of agriculture, animal husbandry to double the income of farmers. He updated on Wednesday that all banks active in Sikkim have guaranteed to extend support in the allied divisions. According to IPR, these are the key decisions taken at the meeting:

  • All the banks in the State will stipulate every Wednesday for farmers to extensively engage with the banks. On this day, farmers can interact with the branch managers and receive all the required support and guidance. Every Wednesday, each bank throughout the State will be fully dedicated to the farmers.
  • On the first Thursday of each month, the officers of the Agriculture, Horticulture and Animal Husbandry Departments will jointly hold a meeting with the officials of all banks and concerned stakeholders. The meeting will review the progress made by farmers as well as assess the challenges faced by them. The meeting will also be a platform for immediate sanction of various schemes and incentives to deserving farmers of the districts.
  •  The Hon’ble Minister announced that the Government will organize a new program called ‘Credit Mela’ where the project and proposal of farmers and entrepreneurs will be scrutinized on the spot and loan will be sanctioned immediately. He informed that the project will be launched from the West District and three constituencies of West Sikkim will be clubbed together for the first Credit Mela. He further informed that the Mela will be held in coordination and under the supervision of the concerned Area MLAs.
  • The Hon’ble Minister termed the above initiatives as the second phase of ‘Green Economy’ aimed at increasing the GDP of the State through agriculture and allied sectors.
  • NABARD will continue to support the farmers in preparation of projects and sanction of subsidy thereof. Emphasizing on timely payment on loans, the Hon’ble Minister announced that farmers who repay their loans on time will be granted a 3% rebate on their interest.
  • Farmers will be provided with a loan of up to 1 lakh 60 thousand without any collateral. Likewise, SHGs and NGOs will be granted a one-time loan of Rs. 10 lakhs without collateral.
  •  The Hon’ble Minister also announced an annual award/incentive to banks which provide the maximum loans and other assistance to farmers.
  • Nodal officers will be appointed by the Department to coordinate with the banking organization to ensure timely implementation of credit linkage and other required support to the farmers. Likewise, it was decided that all the banks will appoint a nodal officer each 

The Agriculture Minister has assured that the Government has put an importance on the development of agriculture and its divisions for the economic well-being of Sikkim and that the state will be self-reliant if the Sikkimese people take the assistance of these incentives. Also addressing the issue of unemployment in the state, he has said that the above will improve production and productivity also pushing the State in the direction of self-sustenance.

The Principal Secretary of Agriculture and Horticulture Department, R. Telang, informed that during the meeting with the Banking Organizations, a detailed discussion was conducted regarding credit for farmers and FPOs and that the bankers unanimously agreed to initiate the activities. Besides, Telang informed that a system will be created for direct purchase of agricultural produce along with seeds and organic fertilizers from the farmers, with no involvement of middlemen or mediators

The General Manager of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Gangtok, Ravindra Sangvai, also assured that the banks would extend all support and aid for farmers through the extension of credit. While the Representative of Lead Bank, Aftab Ahmed Malik, has said that attention will be on encouraging financial literacy among farmers and inspiring them to pursue financial assistance to boost their agricultural productivity. He has also assured that farmers will be given all the essential support and efforts will be made to cover the financial amenities up to the sub-divisional level.

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