Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Rakesh Tikait on Thursday met in Rajasthan's Dausa farmers whose lands have been auctioned by commercial banks over the non-payment of loans, while peasants led by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kirodi Lal Meena protested against the action outside the chief minister's residence.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot asked officials to stop the auction of agricultural land of farmers.
Land attachment and auction is being undertaken by banks that are controlled by the Reserve Bank of India, he said, urging the Centre to waive farmers' loans.
Notably, many instances of land auction notices being issued to farmers who have been unable to pay back their loans have come to the fore recently.
Tikait, who is the spokesperson of the BKU, met farmers in Ramgarh Pachwara in Dausa district whose lands were auctioned by banks after they failed to repay their loans.
Talking to reporters, Tikait said, "Why was the auction done? An investigation should be carried out against bank officials and a case registered. You cannot auction a farmer's entire land for a small loan. It was an illegal auction. The land mafia have their eyes on prime land."
He claimed several farmers have received land auction notices.
"We will meet bank officials on the issue and decide the future course of action," the BKU leader said.
Separately, a group of farmers from Dausa led by BJP MP Dr Kirodi Lal Meena managed to reach the high-security zone near Gehlot's residence here, demanding action against bank officials and cancellation of the land auction process.
However, the protesters were dispersed and Meena was taken away in a bus by police officials.
"Approximately 15 lakh farmers in the state have taken loans worth Rs 10,000 crore from cooperative banks and they are not being waived. The farmers who have come here have less than 5.5 acres of land and have received land auction notices," Meena told reporters from inside the bus.
Recently, a farmer committed suicide in Ramgarh Pachwara and the police have not registered a case in the matter, he alleged.
A protesting farmer said, "My father had taken a loan from the Rajasthan Grameen Bank. Bank officials harassed my father, who committed suicide two months ago. Still, the bank auctioned 15 bighas land for Rs 45 lakh a couple of days ago. We had taken a loan of Rs 3.5 lakh."
Meena was later taken to the Secretariat here, where he met officials from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO), according to a statement.
He handed over a memorandum to the CMO officials seeking a complete waiver of farm loans, the statement issued by Meena's office said.
State BJP president Satish Poonia hit out at Gehlot, saying he is busy writing letters while farmers are being forced to commit suicides.
"Due to the promise made by Rahul Gandhi ji in 2018, lands of farmers of Rajasthan are being auctioned. Farmers are being forced to commit suicide. CM Gehlot is busy writing letters," he said.
If the government has any honesty left, then it should waive loans of all farmers, he added.
State BJP chief spokesperson Ramlal Sharma said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had promised to waive farm loans within 10 days of the party coming to power in the state, but now the situation is such that farmers' lands are being auctioned by banks.
In a statement, Gehlot said the Rajasthan government has already waived loans taken by farmers from cooperative banks.
"Due to the non-payment of loans taken by farmers from commercial banks that are controlled by the Reserve Bank of India in the state, land attachment and auction action is being carried out under the Rajasthan Agricultural Credit Operation (Removal of Difficulties) Act, 1974. State government officials have been instructed to stop this," he said.
The state government has waived cooperative bank loans, he said.
He also urged the Centre to waive farmers' loans by reaching a one-time settlement with commercial banks and said the state government is ready to pay its share in this.
Gehlot said the Rajasthan Assembly had passed a bill to ban the auction of land up to five acres owned by farmers. However, the governor has not yet granted his assent to it.
He expressed hope that the governor will approve the bill soon.