The 12 arrested farmers and 25 others who escaped to avoid arrests of Salimpur Union of Ishwardi Upazila in Pabna, have finally been granted bail. In a country where loan defaulters who misappropriated billions remain out of touch, why this oppression on the poor borrowers?

According to Prothom Alo, 37 members of Bharoimari Uttarpara Vegetable Farmers Association took loans ranging from Tk 10,000 to Tk 40,000 from Bangladesh Samabaya Bank in 2016. The total loan amount was Tk 1.6 million, of which they already paid Tk 1.3 million.

The police arrested 12 people within 24 hours of arrest warrants being issued by the Pabna Chief Judicial Magistrate Court last Wednesday following a case filed by the cooperative bank. Others ran away to avoid arrest. After the news appeared in Prothom Alo, the local public representatives filed for their bail and they got bail on Sunday.

President of Bharoimari vegetable farmers association and reserved woman member of Salimpur Union Parishad, Bilkis, revealed shocking information about the loan. She arranged to get a loan of Tk 1.6 million for 37 members of the association with the assurance that the interest rate will be low. Later they were informed that 15 per cent interest has to be paid. This agitated the farmers and many failed to repay their loans due to high interest rates. Even after the members of the association paid Tk 1.3 million, the bank demanded another Tk 1.2 million.

The bank can take legal action to recover the money provided as loan. Defaulters can also be sued. But surely they can't be placed behind bars. When the defaulters who misappropriate billions remain untouched, the arrest of 12 farmers for a few thousand is unwarranted. The law must not discriminate between offenders.

The manager of Pabna branch of Bangladesh Samabaya Bank, Kazi Jasim Uddin, tried to shake off the responsibility saying he was new there and the case was filed before his arrival. That is absolutely unacceptable. The behaviour of the bank towards the poor farmers is brutal. The top defaulters who stole billions should be arrested.

Journalist Shawkat Hossain wrote a post-editorial in Prothom Alo on 27 November on this topic. He also criticised the discriminatory policy of the government in enforcement of laws.

Interest rates are also very important here. If the bank demands higher interest than they promised at the beginning, then it is a breach of commitment. Action should be taken against whoever is involved in this.

Local representatives have met their responsibility by providing bail to the farmers. In case of collective loan, even if one's share is unpaid, others have to take the responsibility. In that case, the bank authorities should treat the issue with compassion.

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