In the past two months, about 50 farmers have reportedly ended their lives in the state
Telangana’s farming sector is in grave crisis. The state experienced severe drought this year and received 42 per cent less rainfall, according to the state government. Farmer suicides continue at the rate of three to four every day. In the past two months, about 50 farmers have reportedly ended their lives.
“Narendra Modi government should address issues that plague the state’s agriculture sector,” urges Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV), an organisation that works with farmers and for sustainable development. “Substantial allocations for promoting sustainable agriculture, dryland crops and for drought relief are a must,” says S Ashalatha, the organisation’s coordinator in Telangana. The Centre should help the state to promote dryland crops and provide drought relief to farmers, she adds.
A report, submitted in 2004 by the Commission on Farmers' Welfare, appointed by the government of united Andhra Pradesh, to then chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, had observed that agriculture in the state was in deep crisis. The report had observed that drought-prone Telangana and Rayalaseema regions bear most of the burden though farmers in irrigated areas also have been facing problems. What is worse is that the burden has disproportionately fallen on small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and rural labourers,” the report had noted.
Nothing has changed since then, points out Ashalatha, even after the formation of the new state of Telangana in June last year. “Both the Centre and the state governments should formulate farmer-friendly policies and make required allocations,” she says.
RSV points that the National Democratic Alliance, led by Modi, had stated that it was committed to implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers—chaired by M S Swaminathan—on the minimum support price (MSP). The commission had recommended that the MSP should be at least 50 per cent higher than the cost of cultivation. Presently, there is a huge gap between the cost of cultivation and the MSP fixed by the Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP), points out K Ravikumar, executive member, RSV. “Cotton farmers are not even getting the MSP fixed by CACP since they are forced to sell their produce to private traders in the absence of efficient government procurement system,” says he. The budget should make allocations so that the MSP can be increased and the states can be be directed to pay the farmers the difference between the MSP and the actual price realised by farmers without making the consumers pay higher prices, urges RSV.
Deprived of loans and credits
RSV also points out that the number of tenant farmers is on rise in Telangana. “A majority of the farmers who have committed suicide are tenant farmers, who did not have access to bank loans as they were not given loan eligibility cards,” points out Ravikumar.
Even those who have the cards are not given loans as their land owners are not giving consent, bank managers are not inclined to give loans to tenant farmers as they are not sure that the loans would be repaid by farmers as there is no guarantee given by any institution, he points out. “The Centre should make allocation for a loan guarantee fund,” he adds.
The organisation has also pointed out that based on the Finance Commission’s recommendations, the Centre had announced that some 13 types of Central agriculture schemes would be handed over to the state. “Centre must spell out clearly which types of programmes would be handed over to state government. Budget allocations under these schemes should be increased to address the severe drought and agrarian crisis,” says Ashalatha. Women farmers who are playing a key role in agriculture must be extended all kinds of support in the form of credit, insurance, inputs and market services, she adds.
In the previous Union Budget (2014-15), it had been declared that five lakh Joint
Liability Groups (JLGs) of ‘Bhoomi Heen Kisan’ (landless famers) will be financed through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). The guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India say that interested members who are in need of credit or wish to access credit for any livelihood or enterprise related activity would be formed into Joint Liability Groups. As per the guidelines, those who want to access credit need not produce any other document related to land and tenancy. “The implementation of this was not very encouraging because the guidelines were released only in November last year. We demand that this scheme should be continued in the upcoming budget too so that landless women farmers can benefit,” says Ashalatha.
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