We got less than what we borrowed

Say farmers of Pabna village accused of loan default
Pabna farmers

Several farmers, accused of defaulting on loans in Pabna, have said they became victims of fraudulent activities when they took the loans from Bangladesh Samabaya Bank.

A few of them claimed that they were paid less than they were promised.

Forty farmers from Varoimari village in Pabna's Ishwardi upazila jointly took a loan of Tk 16 lakh from the local branch of the bank in 2016 under an organisation named "Varoimari Uttopara Vegetable Farmers' Cooperative Association Limited".

Each of the farmers were supposed to get Tk 40,000 and the bank issued separate cheques against each of them.

But some borrowers claimed that they didn't get the cheques. Rather, the bank officials and the association authorities jointly prepared a list, took farmers' signatures on documents, and handed over money.

Some farmers alleged that they were given Tk 20,000 to 30,000 each but were forced to sign documents stating that they received Tk 40,000 each.

"I am illiterate. They [association leaders and bank officials] told me that the bank granted me a loan of Tk 30,000. I believed them and took the money. I didn't sign any document," said Rojob Ali, 40, an accused.

This correspondent saw a document containing signatures of the 40 farmers acknowledging that each of them received Tk 40,000.

Asked, Rojob said, "Someone might have forged my signature."

The borrower said he received Tk 30,000 loan from the bank in 2016 and repaid the amount the following year with an interest of Tk 3,767. He claimed that he has documents of repayment.

Md Abdus Samad, another accused farmer, said he received Tk 30,000 but repaid the loan with an interest of Tk 17,000 in four installments. "Despite that, I have been accused in the case."

He also claimed that he was not aware of being granted Tk 40,000 loan.

At least six of the accused farmers brought similar allegations against the association leaders and bank officials.

Contacted, cooperative association President Bilkis Nahar denied the allegations saying that all the farmers took a loan of Tk 40,000 each.

She, however, claimed that the bank authorities illogically filed the case against all the farmers though some of them repaid loans with interest.

Md Ahsanul Goni, deputy general manager of Bangladesh Samabaya Bank Limited, said the case was filed against only those who did not repay the loans.

"A total of 40 farmers took loans, but only three of them repaid with interest. So, the case has been filed against 37," he said.

Asked about the alleged fraudulence, Ahsanul said the bank authorities issued separate cheques against each of the 40 farmers. The association leaders received the cheques and handed the money to farmers, he added.

"So, the association leaders will be held responsible if any irregularities are uncovered."

On November 24, 12 farmers of Varoimari village were arrested on loan default charges while the rest 25 went into hiding. The arrests sparked widespread criticism.

Three days later, the 12 were released on bail.

The bank authorities later formed a probe body to investigate the incident. The committee yesterday visited the village and talked to some borrowers.