Hit by agro-crisis, Maha peasants aim high, seek loans for a 5-star hotel and helicopter!

By Quaid Najmi

Buldhana/Hingoli, Jun 18 (IANS): With growing input costs and failing crops, Maharashtra farmers are now exploring alternative avenues to make some extra bucks and, maybe even become local richies.

This week, two marginal farmers have grabbed attention for propounding their ambitious yet bizarre ventures to attain prosperity.

They are Kailas Ramrao Patange, 22, of Taktoda village in Hingoli and Shuham Ingle, 30, of Changefal village in Buldhana, both predominantly farming regions that are hit by the current agrarian crisis gripping different parts of the state.

Ingle has applied for a Rs 11-crore loan - Rs 5.50 crore each from State Bank of India (SBI) and Bank of India (BoI) in Sangrampur - to construct dream high-rise five-star hotel on his small farm, while Patange has sought a Rs 6.65-crore loan from SBI, Goregam, to purchase his dream helicopter.

The duo has submitted their simple and direct loan applications in Marathi - Ingle's is typewritten, while Patange's is hand-scrawled - their respective bank branches managers, creating a flutter.

Hailing from a family which has been tilling land for the past three generations, Ingle reasoned that despite toiling day-night in the fields, he has not been able to improve his and his family's lot since past 15 years.

"After working so hard for 20 hours daily, I am barely able to make ends meet, and can barely afford to provide more than the necessities of life to my family. Hence I thought of this plan to construct a five-star hotel on my farmland," said Ingle.

Similar was the refrain from Patange, who has been working on his 2-acre farm since the past over five years, but found little or no profits from agriculture.

"With my friend Chetan Sawke and advice from some others, we have decided to launch a helicopter rental service which is slowly growing in popularity," Patange told IANS.

The Ingle-Patange duo rued that despite complete dedication to their traditional vocation, they have been repeatedly hit by crop failures, vagrant weather conditions, high costs of raw materials and very low profits, compelling them to consider changing tracks to bring their life on the right track.

Patange said that he plans to hire out his helicopter to various rich individuals, corporations, weddings and other events, and repay his bank loan from the income.

Ingle plans to make hay while the sun shines, and explained how "deluxe and five-star hotels are the haunts of politicians" which will garner huge profits and help him pay back the bank loan.

"Politicians these days, right from the Gram Panchayat level to Parliament, favour deluxe and star hotels for various reasons. I see a great potential income in Buldhana too, besides the tourists and corporate travellers," said Ingle.

However, both candidly confessed that they don't have the faintest idea of how to actually launch their ventures - a five-star hotel or a helicopter rental service - and confidently said they would hire experts after getting their bank loans.

They also admitted that their small plots of land may not be "sufficient collateral" for their loan amounts, but are optimistic the banks would consider their cases sympathetically.

For the present, at least one bank manager has termed Ingle's proposal as 'impossible' but he would study it and forward it to the higher authorities.

"These are big proposals for our rural bank branches. It also needs a proper Project Report by experts, the business plans, profitability, the repayment details, etc, none of which is yet made available," said another bank official in a resigned voice.

However, neither Ingle nor Patange is disheartened by the cynics and said they would visit their banks again next week to ascertain the status of their loan pleas.

Whether the banks entertain them or not, for the present the two young ryots have become local celebs for their pluck and sheer guts to even think of such ad-ventures and approach banks for finance.


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