Even a paltry income support would have succoured Namburi Veeranjeneyulu to ease the ₹3-lakh debt burden he has accumulated this cropping season.
Having toiled in the fields of others as an agricultural labourer for years, he picked up tenant farming for the first time, hoping to be independent and support his family with a decent income. But, what ought to be his salvation turned into a nightmare.
An untimely rain battered the paddy and pest infested chilli crop in 4 acres which he has taken on lease at Orvakallu village in Atchampet Mandal of Guntur district.
However, many landless tenant farmers in the State like him, who depended solely on the cotton that was proved profitable this rabi, heaved a sigh of relief when the State government in the interim budget tabled in February announced the ‘Annadata Sukhibhava’ scheme, promising input subsidy to both landed and tenant farmers.
‘Hope ends in despair’
But, their hope for an immediate relief was ephemeral. In an order issued on February 17, the government decided to pay the first instalment to landed farmers by March, but postponed the payment to tenant farmers to the beginning of the kharif season after elections.
Under the scheme, farmer families covered under the PM-KISAN scheme would get an additional benefit of ₹9,000 per annum while the excluded families would be assisted with ₹10,000 per year. Tenant farmers would be given ₹15,000 per year.
Another farmer Kota Jojijya has taken 7.5 acres on lease at the village and accumulated a debt of ₹4 lakh ‘since the time he set foot in the fields as a boy’. Idling around the village square without work, he asks, “What is the surety that the same party will return to power and give us the benefits? If we had received support along with others, it would have reassured us.”
Wearing a sombre look, Vootukuri Yohanu, a landless farmer, stands dejectedly among the tenant farmers who possess some land and have received the first instalment, at Ananthavaram in Krosuru mandal.
“A payment would have helped me repair my implements and procure seeds ahead of the kharif,” he says.
Still, Kirankumar Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika believes the scheme has a rationale of including landed farmers. “Unlike the Rythu Bandhu scheme in Telangana, it targets families irrespective of how much land they have. There are many families with more than five acres of non-irrigated land and they need support. Even so, tenant farmers have been given a short shrift under the scheme. One must understand that the period between sowing seasons is crucial for them, ” he opines.
‘Not an income support scheme’
However, the scheme has the specific purpose of supporting farmers only for cultivation, says Special Commissioner for Agriculture D. Muralidhar Reddy. “It’s not a generic income support scheme. It intends to help farmers procure implements, fertilizers and seeds. Tenant farmers renew their lease around June and that’s when we’ll know their numbers and can process the payments.”
The process of enumerating tenant farmers, however, reeks of inadequacy and paints an incomplete picture. Their numbers are calculated each year on the basis on registrations made for loan eligibility cards (LEC), certificates of cultivation (CoC), Rythu Mitra groups and joint liability groups (JLGs). However, the delay in issuing of cards and disbursal of loans have discouraged most of them to seek institutional credit, thereby precluding their inclusion in the official records.
“Getting LECs and CoCs is of no use. First, gram sabhas that identifies those eligible for cards are rare. Even if we get cards after waiting for months, getting loans from banks is tedious. So, we depend more on private money lenders who charge an interest rate of up to 36% or landowners who sub-lend loans at almost five times the interest rate at which they get them from banks,” says a farmer.