The politics over agrarian distress in Telangana started heating up as soon as the state government announced 24x7 power supply for the farms, while the Congress party came out with a farmers’ manifesto to exploit widespread disillusionment over the deferred payments of the loan waiver scheme.
The Congress has promised crop loan waiver up to Rs 2 lakh. Unlike the TRS government which has deferred the debt waiver, the Congress has promised to waive the loans in a single sweep within 100 days of coming to power.
The second assurance is on the count of effective implementation of crop insurance schemes. The party claimed that farmers have not got the claims for crop damage and promised to bear the entire cost of crop insurance premium. To top it all, there will be a Market Intervention Fund of Rs 5,000 crore to procure farm produce.
Political parties realise that they need to address the issue of farm distress because it is certain to be a key electoral issue. There is growing discontent despite the government announcing various schemes to find a solution to the agrarian crisis. The Rs 1 lakh loan waiver scheme announced by the TRS government is being criticised as it was divided into four instalments. The farmers remained in debt for years while the interest amount kept adding up. It has not stopped the government from going full steam to make sure that farmers don’t get agitated. The TRS government will bring a separate budget for agriculture. It also has a Rs 6,800 crore agriculture and investment support scheme at the rate of Rs 4,000 per acre per season.
In the current financial year, the government had planned to spend Rs 13,640 crore in agriculture and related activities which was 15.49 per cent of the budget. The figure included Rs 4,000 crore in the form of farm loan waiver. With the release of the amount last year, the government waived loans of Rs 16,374 crore. The government paid the money in four tranches of Rs 4,250 crore in September 2014 benefiting around 35 lakh farmers. The waiver was opposed by the RBI as it played havoc with the credit mechanisms.
Telangana had witnessed a large number of farmers’ suicides – among states, it recorded the second highest such cases two years ago. In 2015, 1,358 farmers had committed suicide while the number was 516 in Andhra Pradesh. Even in 2014, Telangana had occupied the second spot in the rankings of states with high farmers’ suicides. The number was 898 in 2014.
The problems are plenty as the farmers face stress due to multiple issues. Last month spurious seeds in chilli and cotton crops became a cause of major worry and led to farmers’ suicides because of crop failure. For all of 2017, farms were grappling with failure of cotton and chilli crops. Despite the problem the chilli output rose by 14 per cent but the drop in demand led to a market crash. The farmers got agitated and came on to the streets to demand minimum support price. Naturally, it became a major political issue when the police in Khammam paraded the farmers who had attacked the Market Yard office in public.
The Telangana state government has announced various projects like mission Kakatiya to revive 46,500 minor irrigation tanks in a Rs 20,000 crore scheme. Despite the measures, the suicides continue. According to estimates, the number of suicides in 2017 are also expected to be more than 1,000 as the data is still being compiled. The ruling TRS had got simple majority in the 119-member Telangana assembly in 2014. It added the numbers after breaking opposition ranks. The battle is going to be tough if the farmers continue to remain agitated. The various schemes will take time in showing results.