The indefinite fast launched by Andhra Pradesh Kaulu Rytula Sangham State president B. Balaram and his associates Saka Kissinger and Chintapalli Appa Rao protesting against delay by the State government over passage of a Bill in the Assembly for issue of identity cards to sharecroppers entered the third day on Sunday.
A team of doctors from the local government hospital undertook a medical checkup on the fasting leaders so as to keep track of their health condition. Leaders from the TDP and the CPI (M) visited the fasting camp and expressed their solidarity with the fasting leaders.
Mr. Balaram said: “The tenant farmers in the State are quite likely to be denied identity and legal status in accessing the bank credit even during the ensuing khariff season. Even as the government initiated a lot of exercise, including interactions with stakeholders and representatives of land owners, and tenant farmers' associations over the draft bill in the run-up to the current Assembly session, it failed to table the Bill in the House.” It was programmed to complete distribution of identity cards by March-end and disbursement of bank credit to all the eligible tenant farmers by April enabling them to go in for the khariff operations. But it all went in vain for want of ‘commitment' from the government, he observed.
Even as 80 per cent of the agricultural land under cultivation by sharecroppers in the light of land owners quitting agriculture for a variety of reasons, the amount of bank credit available to tenant farmers was quite insignificant.
Consequently, they were forced to depend on private credit for higher rate of interest leading to distress. It resulted in suicide by about 600 tenant farmers across the State in the last six months, Mr. Balaram said. In West Godavari district, for instance, the sharecroppers numbering about two lakhs borrowed Rs. 2,000 crore from private lenders every year even as the bank credit extended to them through ‘rytu mitra groups' (RMGs) failed to cross Rs. 150 crore, he said.