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Criminal act: How Mallya changed a poor farmer into a 'defaulter'

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 21 May 2016, 22:37 IST

Manmohan Singh, a farmer from Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh, can breathe easy now. His accounts in the Bank of Baroda, which were frozen last December for securing a loan as "director/guarantor" for Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines, are operational again.

The order to "free his accounts" was received Friday evening, said Maange Ram, manager of the bank's branch in Nand, Pilibhit.

Manmohan's son Arvinder said the family was relieved although they didn't yet know if Manmohan's name had been removed from the list of defaulters. Arvinder said the entire episode could have been a case of mistaken identity.

Also read - Bank thinks Pilibhit farmer is Vijay Mallya's 'guarantor', freezes his bank accounts

Maange Ram said he had received the order to freeze Manmohan's accounts from the bank's office in Mumbai last December. Apparently, he was listed as a director/guarantor of Kingfisher Airlines alongside Vijay Mallya and his son Siddharth Mallya.

Kingfisher Airlines was grounded in February 2013, and its accounts frozen by the Income Tax department after declaring the company "delinquent".

Without an account, we couldn't sell our wheat to the state. We had to sell it for cheap: Arvinder

That Manmohan's accounts held just Rs 4,000 and Rs 1,217 didn't raise any flags when they were ordered to be frozen. Manmohan was puzzled when he learned about his "defaulter status" as he had never even seen Mallya. Nor did he know anything about the airline of which he was purported to be a director.

Asked if he had informed his Mumbai office about Manmohan's financial status, Maange Ram said he had. Yet, for five months, the hapless farmer had to wait anxiously for the bank to defreeze his accounts. "Besides the anxiety, we had to suffer financial losses as we were forced to sell our wheat crop at very low prices to private buyers," said Arvinder.

Manmohan usually sold his produce to the government for a Minimum Support Price, which is Rs 150-Rs 200 per quintal more than what private buyers pay. The government, however, pays directly into the seller's bank account. "My father didn't have any other account, so we could not sell our wheat at the MSP fixed by the government," said Arvinder, who did all the talking on his father's behalf.

Asked if Manmohan had ever travelled outside Pilibhit, Arvinder said they keep visiting relatives in Punjab but they almost always travel via Bareilly and "don't even go to Delhi".

The family, which shifted to Pilibhit from Punjab about 30 years ago, owns eight acres of land. Manmohan had taken a loan from the bank in 2014, but he had already repaid it before his accounts were sealed.

More in Catch - Growing economy, failing agriculture: why this is a disastrous mix for India

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First published: 21 May 2016, 22:37 IST
 
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