‘Triple whammy’ for State, Chandy tells special meet of SLBC

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has requested commercial banks to join the effort to mitigate the impact of impending drought crisis.

The emerging scenario is of a scale not witnessed for quite some time in the recent past, he said.

SPECIAL SESSION

Chandy said this while addressing a special meeting of the State-Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) here on Tuesday.

The State Government has gone out of its way to prepare itself to deal with the situation, but this was evidently proving not enough.

Explaining, he said Ministers have been put in charge of drought relief work at the district level to keep ‘supply lines’ working.

District-level monitoring teams have also been asked to salvage drinking water supply lines wherever in state of disrepair.

‘TRIPLE WHAMMY’

Unlike other States facing drought, the season has delivered a triple whammy for Kerala, the Chief Minister said.

The State is mostly reliant on hydroelectric power and finds itself in a bind since reservoir levels are plumbing new lows. So the crisis unfolds at three levels, viz. drinking water, power generation and longer-term implications for agriculture.

Farmers were going to face the toughest of times since the destructive impact of the drought might hit them with a lag.

“This could play out over a period of the next three years, and in some cases even beyond,” the Chief Minister warned.

Initially, four districts were declared drought-hit; the Government had to extend it to the rest after the ‘dry run’ kept on with no relent. It was at this juncture the Government asked the cooperatives to declare a one-year moratorium on farm loans. This will be followed by a one-year waiver of interest, following which the loan would be rescheduled.

CO-OP PACKAGE

The Chief Minister said the ball is now in the court of commercial banks and requested them to match Government efforts. The gravity of the situation had been conveyed to the Centre. Locally, the State Cabinet too had discussed the issue in detail.

It was agreed that a meeting of bankers be called, where the Chief Minister and finance minister would speak to individual banks.

Finance Minister K.M. Mani asked bankers to desist from taking coercive steps to recover farm loans. He observed that loans be ideally rescheduled from short to medium term and from medium to long term.

vinson.kurian@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 5, 2013)
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