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Pune: Grape farmer wins four-year legal battle against govt bank

The state consumer commission directed the bank to pay the farmer over Rs 14.6 lakh in damages to compensate for the losses he incurred in an export transaction that went wrong due to the bank’s error

Five years ago, a farmer’s dream to export grapes to the UK went sour, after a government bank committed a major error in the paperwork, leading to massive losses.

Grapes
Sour grapes: More had hoped to export the famed Tasgaon grapes to the UK, but his dream ended in a loss of over Rs 11 lakh. Representation Pic/Thinkstock

After a four-year legal battle, however, the farmer finally found relief on Tuesday, with the Maharashtra State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission directing the bank to pay him over Rs 14.6 lakh in damages.

Yashwant More (50) is the owner of Prakash Agro Exports in Tasgaon, Sangli, a place famous for its grapes. “As a farmer, it was my dream that my products would be available and recognised across the world. I had dreamt that my grapes would be seen in the markets in the UK. Accordingly, in 2009 I packed 1,600 cartons of grapes and sent them in a container to the UK by sea,” he said.

He had already approached the Central Bank of India to process the paperwork for the transaction, and was confident that they would take care of the rest. His consignment reached the UK on time, but he was then informed that there was no paperwork to support the export.

“According to the rules, documents such as bank invoice, bank transactions report, guarantee papers are required. The UK agent said they had not received any of the documents from the bank. I checked with the bank, and then they checked with the courier company. Then they told me they had sent the documents to Germany instead of the UK,” More added.

Because of the bank’s blunder, there was a month’s delay before the documents could be sent back to India and then to the UK. “In the meantime, the entire consignment of grapes deteriorated, and I had no option but to sell it at scrap value. I had already paid demurrage charges, the agent’s commission and other expenses. When I asked the bank to repay the amount, they refused and claimed it was the courier company’s mistake,” More recalled.

Adding insult to the injury, the bank then named More a defaulter after he failed to repay the loan he had taken for the process. “If those grapes had reached the market on time, I would have earned Rs  20 lakh to Rs 25 lakh and would have repaid the bank,” explained More, who moved the Pune District Consumer Redressal Forum with a complaint against the managers of Central Bank of India branches in Sangli and Pune in 2010.

The forum had directed the bank to pay him Rs 2.46 lakh and an additional Rs 20,000 as legal charges, but More was unhappy with the verdict and filed an appeal before the state commission.

The ruling
Favouring More, the state commission observed, “Because of deficiency in service on the part of the bank, More had to bear losses to the tune of Rs 11.1 lakh.” The panel then went on to direct the Central Bank of India to pay Rs 14.63 lakh to More, along with interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum from 2010 onwards. The bank was also told to pay More an additional Rs 30,000 as legal expenses.

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