Hyderabad: As Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao launched his Rythu Bandhu scheme in the state on Thursday, the atmosphere across all districts was almost festive, as lakhs of farmers thronged distribution centres set up in all villages to receive cheques worth Rs 4,000 per acre for kharif crops and new electronic pattadar passbooks. Overjoyed at receiving money from a government to which they otherwise used to pay taxes under the jamabandi imposed by the revenue department since the era of the Nizams, some of them recalled how they struggled to pay taxes for decades. In many places, braving the hot sun, farmers in large numbers emerged on to the streets, dancing to rhythmic drumbeats.
Pedda Sathenna, a 50-year-old farmer in Nirmal mandal, who received a cheque for Rs 10,000 for his 2.5 acres, said, “My father, who is 80, tells me farmers have been paying tax-es to the government in the name of jamabandi for ages. I too paid jamabandi for several years. For the first time, we are getting money from the government. We never expected this, and the credit goes entirely to our CM." Gangamma, a 45-year-old woman, who received a cheque for Rs 12,000 in Balkonda, said, “We had to depend on private money lenders every year to buy fertilisers and seeds. This year, I have Rs 12,000 given by the government, which is enough for cultivation.”
The scheme, set to distribute Rs 5,780 crore within a week to over 58 lakh farmers, has boosted the morale of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leaders and cadre ahead of the 2019 elections. Ministers, TRS MPs, MLAs, MLCs and local party leaders in all districts went from village to village, distributing cheques. Many of them believe Rythu Bandhu will be a game changer in 2019 and help TRS retain power. They also hope to derive the benefit of the scheme in the upcoming Panchayat elections to be held in June, since farmers form a major chunk of the electorate.
Tents were set up in all villages, and separate counters to distribute cheques and passbooks were set up to avoid a stampede-like situation, keeping in mind the incidents during the distribution of free saris on the occasion of Dussehra last year, causing huge embarrassment to the government. Officials visited the houses of beneficiaries a day in advance, handing over slips similar to voter slips during general elections, specifying the date and time of distribution of cheques, and counter number allotted for disbursal. About 71 per cent of the 58 lakh farmers in Telangana will receive cheques below Rs 10,000 each for kharif. The distribution programme will last until May 17 in over 10,300 villages.