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A farm worker looks for dried plants to remove in a paddy field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, September 8, 2015.Reuters file

Punjab Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Thursday said that there is no move or intention to sell the land of farmers to recover dues by the State Agriculture Cooperative Bank.

"Initiating legal action against defaulters is a routine practice in all banks. This bank has also been following it and sending notices to defaulters for the recovery. But it does not mean that the bank eventually intends to sell their land," Randhawa said in a statement.

There were reports that the cooperative bank was planning to sell the land of farmers who had failed to repay their loans.

Accusing the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal of playing politics, Randhawa said that even during previous SAD-BJP government rule, legal notices were sent to farmers to sell land and arbitration proceedings initiated against defaulters.

"As on January 31, 2016, before this government took over, sale action was already underway against 30,794 defaulter farmers and arbitration proceedings to secure arrest warrants of defaulters were initiated against 41,745 defaulter farmers of all the 89 PADBs in Punjab," Randhawa said.

He added that out of 23 defaulter farmers whose land was auctioned and purchased by the PADBs themselves and still stands in the name of these banks. He said that in 20 cases, the land was auctioned during the Akali regime.

"Land of not a single farmer has been sold by the bank since March 2017," Randhawa added.

"The bank primarily affects the recovery by way of persuasion and never harasses a farmer in distress. But there are many wilful defaulters who in spite of various efforts and ample time given to them have not bothered to repay loan instalments even when they have the capacity to repay," he said.

"It is evident from the fact that the bank had Rs 1,363.87 crore outstanding against 71,432 farmers as of February 1. Of these, the bank has effected recovery of Rs 194.74 crore from 16,469 farmers till June 30, and not sold the land of even a single farmer," the Minister added.