Farmers Distresses

The lack of Foresight and planning made an acute agricultural crisis and farmers distresses in the paddy-rich Telangana state. The government’s Policy instability, ritual rollout of annual action plans and unmindful schemes, meant that procurement of paddy, its marketing and exports are hit hard in the State.

FatmersAfter a prolonged struggle for six decades, the hopes and expectations to achieve a separate state hood for Telangana region was to cherish Achhe Din for agriculture sector, which was under distress during undivided Andhra Pradesh. However, an appalling situation continues, wherein the farmer suicides and severe drought has been haunting the Telangana region till today.

In the last two years, the ruling political regime, which came into power, has taken initiatives with much self-glorification and media blitzkrieg, such as rebuilding of tank network and focus on irrigation projects. However the past continues to horrify the agricultural sector in the state, due to various reasons such as shortage of rains, change in climatic conditions, increase in the cost of cultivations and lack of irrigation facilities.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 898 farmers committed suicides in Telangana during 2014, which was the second highest number in the country after Maharashtra. Last year the state government has admitted in the state assembly that 430 famers ended their lives in last 15 months. However, the political parties and non-governmental organizations alleged that nearly 2000 famers committed suicide since the separate state came into existence. As per published reports nearly 34 farmers committed suicide in a single village in the home district of the Telangana Chief Minister.

Farmer suicides were attributed to a number of reasons ranging from crop failure to indebtedness. State Government failed to provide crop insurance at par with what is available to industry, as agriculture is the sector most vulnerable to the vagaries of nature. Failure of crops almost always renders the farmers incapable of paying back the loan installments, and if crops fail in two or more consecutive seasons, farmers invariably find themselves in a debt trap. This is exactly what is happening in Telangana region, where the maximum suicides have been reported.

Fatmers1Too much surprise, the state government has been reluctant to declare drought year, despite the official record shows that there has less than 50 percent rainfall in last two years. The state government feels that, if they declares drought year, it will echo the backwardness of the region and reflects the decline in the state economy, which will hamper the prospect of attracting private investment in the state. This motive reflects the neo-liberal agenda of the ruling party, which is planning to protect the interest of the corporates.

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In an embarrassing remark on the functioning of state leadership, the Comptroller and Auditor General in its report for 2014-15 was tabled in the State Assembly, which has observed that there is an evidence of unrealistic budgetary assumptions and weaknesses in expenditure monitoring and control. The entire Supplementary provision of Rs 5,359 crore proved unnecessary as the actual expenditure Rs 64,097 crore incurred was less than the original budget provision of Rs 1,01,323 crore. The report also further stated that the unrealistic budgetary allocations resulting in substantial savings, unnecessary Supplementary grants, expenditure incurred without provision and excess re-appropriations resulting in excess provision are indication of poor budget management.

Recently, the Department of Information and Public Relations of Telangana government has published two page advertorial in daily newspapers highlighting Mission Kakatiya programme, which was already launched in 2014, aims to increase agriculture based income for small and marginal farmers, by accelerating the development of minor irrigation infrastructure. It was stated in the advertorial that under the Mission Kakatiya program more that 45000 tanks and many lakes will be restored in Telangana region and it will have huge bearing on generation of rural employment, poverty reduction and agricultural growth. Further, it was also mentioned that Rs. 26,657 crore budget has been allotted for the year 2016-17.

On contrary the Comptroller and Auditor General, which has assessed the implementation of the irrigation projects in Telangana state, has exposed that the state government has not disclosed the financial results of any of its irrigation projects despite having largest irrigation projects in India. It has further mentioned, “Several policy initiatives taken up by Government were either unfulfilled or were partially executed, primarily due to non-approval of scheme guidelines/modalities, non-commencement of works for want of administrative sanction and poor project implementation, apart from non-release of budget.”

The Comptroller and Auditor General observation clearly reflects the haphazard vision of the state leadership and its administrative failures in managing the emerging agrarian crisis in the state. Handling of irrigation projects today stand as a monument for faulty and mindless planning.

In other instance, the autocratic approach and dictatorial tendency towards farmers by the Telangana Government has clearly reflected in its affidavit filed before high of court of Hyderabad, which stated that due to lavish life style, and spending huge amount of money on marriages and children’s education are among the reasons for farmers’ suicide in the state.

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Fatmet2Whereas, in the midst of financial crisis, in an absolute disgrace the Chief Minister has travelled to China on a private jet hired for Rs. 2 crore on an exchequer cost, to attend the World Economic Forum. Similarly, the chief minister has gifted himself a swanky bulletproof Mercedes Benz bus, which bleed the whole of Rs 5 crore to the exchequer.

During separate Telangana agitation, the political parties including the Telangana Rasthra Samiti, had promised to change the fortunes of the farmers, who were subjected to exploitation of their resources like water and power. However, the plight of farmers, under the current dispensation is effectively left at the mercy of the monocratic government, which remains insensitive towards agricultural sector.

While the state economy is shambles, the ruling government took a decision to increase the salary of the legislators from Rs 95,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh per month, and the chief minister’s salary has been hiked from Rs 2.44 lakh to Rs 4.21 lakh, while the ministers salary has increased from Rs 2.42 lakh to Rs 4 lakh. Interestingly the ruling party has tried to justify the hike on grounds of increased expenses and that the legislators were involved in the process of ‘nation building’.

In the current scenario, the growing agricultural crisis and its manifestations have not gone entirely unnoticed, with the state government. In past the Telangana region is known as “Rice Bowl of India” and today the agriculture sector in this region is in advanced stage of crisis and the causes of this crisis are manifold and they are predominantly related to the mal governance and feudal practice of the stase.

Apparently, in the past, there was a sort of regulated cropping. Farmers used to be advised on what to raise, cultivation practices and the like. All this is no longer in vogue. Unilateral steps without any consultations with opposition and stakeholders have messed up things. In fact, since 2014, the biggest problem in India has been that all governments feel they are the ultimate authority and their know-all attitude sees no need for any cooperation from any organisation or political party. They do not take opposition into confidence on such issues as crop pattern, ignoring that if they co-opt opposition or experts as partners in decision-making, it would prove beneficial for farmers.

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Fatmers3Ministers instead of convincing farmers on crop shift and showing alternatives seem to be only keen on impressing the CM by speaking before news channels, attacking the opposition. The opposition in turn merely dubs the government anti-farmer. While claiming to be pro-farmer, neither speaks to the farmers. All this has caused utter confusion among paddy farmers and forced CM K Chandrasekhar Rao himself to hold a press meet and explain why they do not want farmers to sow paddy during the rabi.

Rather than apprise the farmers of no market for paddy or bleak procurement chances, both ruling and opposition parties try to derive political capital by blaming it on the other. TS government says Centre is not purchasing but pats itself for raising storage capacity. It adds meekly that massive output has, however, caused lack of space for the produce.

It is not easy to convince a farmer to change crop pattern instantly. It needs education, proper reasoning and strong awareness on which crop would be advantageous to him. Instead, we have seen a District Collector say that he will not allow any seed company to sell paddy seeds. The farmers are now seeking that paddy or fodder crop be allowed during rabi season. The issue of water to every acre was one of the main slogans during the separate Telangana agitation. The statehood has been achieved, but the farmers continue to despair for want of a sound action plan from the government. The government cannot say the present crisis was unforeseeable.

The Telangana government has been boasting that it is the only government in the country which directly purchases paddy from farmers. But it is now finding it impossible to keep its promise. It claims that paddy was cultivated in 63 lakh acres this year but the Centre disputes it, saying the acreage is not visible in satellite images. The State claims they had asked for ground-level inspection, but the Centre has not responded to date. Under these circumstances, the government is asking farmers not to go in for paddy.

If the farmers have to shift to a different crop, the government needs to assure them about procuring their produce. But no such assurance is forthcoming. Another problem is the State does not have proper plant and machinery to mill the paddy as per international standards and also lacks testing laboratories. Hence, exporters are not preferring Telangana Sona rice. Poor connectivity is another major issue which deters them. #KhabarLive #hydnews