1 out of 3 farmers are tenants in Telangana; are excluded from any government support

The Telangana government has declared its flagship cash transfer scheme to be for the support of farmers; but the money goes to landowners  

By Shagun
Published: Wednesday 14 December 2022
1 out of 3 farmers are tenants in Telangana; are excluded from any government support
Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

One out of every three farmers in Telangana are tenant farmers, an extensive survey of the extent of tenancy in the state has found.

The figure is double the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey estimates of 17.5 per cent tenant holdings in the state. Also, these tenant farmers were found to be excluded from all government support.

The Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV), an independent farmers’ organisation based in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, conducted a door-to-door survey in collaboration with other organisations.

Read Compensate Telangana farmers immediately for crop loss: Farm activists

They covered 7,744 farmers in 34 villages across 20 districts. They found 36 per cent (2,753) were cultivating leased land. This means that the projected total number of tenant farmers was 2.2 million, double the NSSO estimate. Also, 19 per cent of these were landless.

The 36 per cent figure will make Telangana the second state after Andhra Pradesh with such high tenant holdings in the country. Tenant farmers, on average, owned 0.9 hectare (ha) of land. Average leased land was two ha.

Eighty-one per cent owned some land. But since it was not sufficient for livelihood, they had to rent some additional land. Of this, marginal farmers (with less than 1 ha) were 48 per cent and small farmers (owning between 1-2 ha) were 24 per cent.

Some 31 per cent of the tenants had leased in more than two ha of land, which showed that the tenant farmers were more dependent on the leased land than their own land.

The survey also highlighted that while on one hand, there is mounting debt on tenant farmers, they do not get any substantial government support which is mostly given to land-owning farmers.

Average debt due to agriculture per tenant farmer family was Rs 2.7 lakh. Of this, 75 per cent were private loans.

The interest on private loans ranges from 24 per cent to 60 per cent, with tenant farmers being dependent on moneylenders, fertiliser and pesticides dealers, gold pawnbrokers, commission agents, relatives, seed companies, and landowners for their investment.

However, there was no direct or indirect benefit of the Rythu Bandhu scheme, a direct cash benefit transfer scheme of the Telangana government. It goes only to the land title holder directly.

The state government had claimed that the scheme would indirectly benefit tenant farmers, as landowners who received cash support will either give part of it to tenant farmers or reduce the land rent. However, only 17 farmers (0.6 per cent) said the lease price was reduced.

Just 10 tenants (0.4 per cent) said the land owner gave the entire Rythu Bandhu money to them. Only 0.1 per cent of tenant farmers said they were given a portion of Rythu Bandhu.

Read Telangana farmers pushed to suicide after pest attack destroys chilli crop

Down To Earth also found the trend during its reportage in the state on pest attacks on chilli crop early this year. The government did not give any compensation for heavy crop damage to the tenant farmers, scores of whom had died by suicide.

The survey too said while 77 per cent of farmers suffered severe crop damage in the last three years, only one per cent received compensation.

A crucial loss to the farmers was also that 44 per cent couldn’t sell their crop at minimum support price because procurement was tied to land ownership.

Over 60 per cent of tenant farmers were from backward classes, 23 per cent from Scheduled Castes and 10 per cent belonged to Scheduled Tribes.

“The context of the study is that while we observe increasing extent of tenant farmers cultivating leased land at the field level, the Telangana state government has excluded them from all their support systems.

“The government has declared an explicit stand that their schemes are meant only for land owning farmers and not for tenant farmers – saying that taking care of tenant farmers is not the government’s responsibility,” the report said.

The Government of Telangana has declared its flagship Rythu Bandhu cash transfer scheme to be an “investment support scheme” to help farmers pay for the costs of inputs and cultivation.

“But the money goes only to the land owners (pattadars) even if they are not cultivating the land, while excluding the actual cultivators,” the report said.

The 2011 Land Licensed Cultivators Act required the government to identify and register actual cultivators and issue them Loan and Other Eligibility Cards (LEC) to access bank loans and other schemes. However, after 2015, the state government stopped implementing the Act.

Chief Minister KC Rao declared in the Assembly that it was not possible to register and identify the tenant farmers as they lease land from one owner for one year and another year from another owner.

However, the survey found that 73 per cent of the tenant farmers had been cultivating the same land for at least three years or more. Of this, 39 per cent farmers have been farming on the same land for more than five years and 18 per cent for more than 10 years.

Even the central government does not include tenant farmers in its flagship PM-KISAN cash support scheme. But states like Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have maintained lists of tenant farmers and extended support through state schemes.

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