Odisha government has decided to activate joint liability groups of farmers, increase number of such groups and make it mandatory for primary cooperative societies to extend loan at one percent interest up to Rs 50,000 to at least 10 such groups.

The groups were existing since long after Nabard had given such a proposal on lines of the Self Help Group model to help farmers avail loan. Cooperation Minister Surya Narayan Patro tried to project the entire scheme as something new today by telling media persons that sharecroppers and landless farmers will get loan up to Rs 50,000 at one percent interest.

Cooperative banks and societies have been asked to disburse Rs 7,200 crore as loan to farmers in the Khariff season. Out of the total Rs 7200 crore, Rs 200 crore would be earmarked for disbursal of loan to sharecroppers landless farmers under the joint liability groups and Rs 1,000 crore will be spent as term loan for agriculture sector, Mr Patro said.

All the• 2703 cooperative societies in the state and each society was asked to provide loan to at least ten groups. As of now one lakh such groups are there and this number will be increased by forming more groups.

The Minister said a decision was also taken to provide seed and fertilizer to farmers through the cooperative societies. In another decision agricultural equipments to farmers for conducting various agricultural activities will be provided to the farmers through the cooperative societies on rent.

In yet another decision, the government, he said, has decided to provide Rs 30,000 loan to women street vendors. Opposition Congress and BJP questioned the announcement and said it was strange that a government which failed to enact the share croppers rights related legislation is talking of helping sharecroppers.

How are they going to identity sharecroppers or landless farmers, questioned the Opposition leaders. The BJP charged that it was yet another tactic to fill the pockets of ruling BJD workers in the rural areas. The loan amount will go to BJD activists who will form groups and claim to be farmers, alleged the BJP spokesperson S Sharma.