Nearly a million farmers losing out on MSP in Telangana

HYDERABAD: Almost a million farmers in Telangana, classified as tenant farmers, are being robbed of their right to sell their crops at the minimum support price (MSP). Crop procurement is tied to land ownership, and tenant farmers, who are already out of the Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bima safety nets, are having to contend with this additional challenge of not being able to sell at MSP the produce they grow.

This was one of the several findings in a first-of-its-kind study on tenancy and tenant farmers in the state by Rythu Swarajya Vedika, an NGO working on farmers’ issues. The survey covered 7,744 farmers in 34 villages in 20 districts of Telangana and based on the survey, the study estimated that Telangana has around 22 lakh tenant farmers.

Of this number, 19 per cent – some 4,18,000 — were totally landless and depend on tenancy for livelihood, while the rest, around 17,82,000, had an average ownership of 2.3 acres and lease an average of 5.1 acres for farming. Of those who were surveyed, 2,753 were tenants cultivating leased land.

Since MSP for crops was tied with land ownership — that is a farmer is expected to produce his pattadar passbook at the market yard when he or she goes to sell the produce — the worst hit are the 4,18,000 odd tenant farmers who do not own any land.

The bulk of the tenant farmers may manage to get MSP for the land they own, but since a single acre can only produce a finite amount of crop, additional crop brought by them does not stand a chance of being sold at the minimum support price.

The study found that 44 per cent of tenant farmers – 9,68,000 – could not sell their crop at MSP because of land ownership as a precondition for availing this fundamental support offered to farmers.

Typically, even when the land owner provides a copy of his pattadar passbook copy to the tenant, the amount for the crop purchased goes to the owner’s bank account. And quite often, it is not easy for the tenant farmer to retrieve the whole amount. This leaves tenant farmers no option but to indulge in distress sales.

Kannuri Sadanand, from Nagampeta village of Jammikunta mandal in Karimnagar district, a tenant farmer, said he needed to figure out how to ensure he gets MSP for his the ‘popcorn maize’ he is raising on one acre of leased land. “I am not sure how I will go about it,” he said. Last year too he leased one acre in his village and raised Moringa for its leaves but said the rains destroyed the crop.

“The lease costs me 35,000 a year but since I also run a small graphic design shop in Hyderabad, I managed. But all the investment in the crop was lost,” he said.

On the issue of the state government not extending either Rythu Bandhu or Rythu Bima to tenant farmers, the study said one of the arguments by the state was that tenant farmers cannot be identified as tenant farmers change every year. The study found that 73 per cent of the tenant farmers have been cultivating the same land for at least three years or more, with a large number of them cultivating the same leased land for more than 5 years and with some doing so for more than 10 years.

“It is clear that the relationship between the tenant farmer and the owner is not as temporary as the government claims. It is possible to recognize that relationship and give identification to the tenant farmer,” the study said.

Kota Neelima, a Congress office-bearer in the state and a researcher, said it was time for a Kaulu (tenant farmer) Rythu Bandhu scheme. “The government does not recognize tenancy and tenant farmers, blindsiding 36% farmers in Telangana. And most suicides in the farming community is from among tenant farmers,” she said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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