Telangana government’s Farmers Investment Support Scheme (FISS), coming as it does in an election year, raises the question of whether it is meant to help farmers or to shore up the prospects of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) in the elections. The scheme for which Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao is providing Rs 6,000 crore in Agriculture Budget would be implemented by Rythu Samanvaya Samithis at state, district, mandal and village levels. These samithis are being peopled by TRS leaders, as KCR himself had said.

It is not difficult to put two to two together to understand that KCR wants to keep 1.42 crore farmers in good humour by paying them cash incentive of Rs 4,000 per acre regardless of how many acres one possesses which is being seen as some kind of a gratification of farmers ahead of elections. The total cropped land is about 1.62 crore acres. It is hard not to smell elections in the main takeaways of the scheme. They are: The investment subsidy is being paid in cash and not in kind; and; secondly, paying farmers any subsidy in cash is intended to keep him happy though it does not guarantee increase in agriculture productivity.

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The state government would be doing a great favour to farmers if it addresses the root cause of distress in agriculture – lack of remunerative price for farmer’s produce. For farmers to get a good price, they should have access to inputs like water, pesticides, fertilisers, quality seeds and good market conditions. This may not be difficult to ensure since the government has necessary infrastructure in place already. As far as water is concerned, the government is now providing power round-the-clock to agriculture wells, which again is leading to overdrawal of water, depleting groundwater table. It is obvious that KCR wants to earn brownie points with farmers by providing round-the-clock power supply though nine-hour power supply is just enough.

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The crunch comes when the farmer has to sell his crop. The government should step in at this stage to ensure that the designs of middle men are foiled. Though several schemes are rolled out to help farmers, it is the middle men who always have the last laugh, making a huge profit off the hapless farmer. Last year, farmers had to resort to distress sale of their kharif crop, reminding one of the disconcerting symptom of the deeper agrarian malaise.

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Though the Centre announces MSP for various crops, there are always allegations that FCI or other institutions have one too many conditions in procurement which makes the farmer choose the easy way out – resorting to distress sale. Last year, the MSP for paddy was Rs 1,550 per quintal and for grade A 1,590, for jowar Rs 1,700 (hybrid) and Rs 1,725 for maldandi. For cotton (medium), the MSP was Rs 4,020 per quintal and MSP for cotton (long) was Rs 4,320 and yet there were reports of middlemen fleecing farmers of all types of crops. The government will do well by treating the cause and not the symptoms alone. #KhabarLive