Post demonetisation, Telangana farmers still facing cash crunch
Khammam district (Telangana): Y. Govardhan, 36, is a troubled man. This year has been particularly rough for the farmer from Balpala village in Telangana’s Mahbubabad district. Apart from low chilli prices that drove him to losses, he is unhappy that his commission agent has been paying him through cheques for the last six months, making daily expenses hard to manage.
Not willing to wait till the cheque is deposited and cleared in his bank account, Govardhan has been mostly getting them issued on a third person’s name, who gives him the cash after charging 3% interest on the amount. “If I deposit it in my account, the bank will settle my loan of about Rs70,000. We need cash for everyday work,” the farmer said.
Last year’s high red chilli prices prompted many Telangana farmers, including Govardhan, to switch to it. But that resulted in a bumper harvest, pushing prices down from Rs10,000-12,000 last year to Rs3,000-5,000 this year.
At the 32-acre agricultural market yard in Three Town, Khammam district, farmers start arriving from 7am. The mood, particularly in the chilli yard, has been anything but upbeat this year. In fact, farmers had even ransacked the market in April, agitated at the steep fall in prices.
“We have to pay Rs30 per bag of chilli as transport charges, and then money to labourers. We need cash in hand to purchase things. At least we were getting cash in hand before demonetisation. I am in a debt of Rs3 lakh. Farmers are dead now,” lamented G. Ramesh, 40, another chilli farmer from Garidapalli village in Khammam district.
The situation so far this year has been grim for chilli farmers. With no minimum support price for red chillies, the fall in prices coupled with the shortage of cash post demonetisation has only worsened things for them.
Given their huge losses over chilli, both Govardhan and Ramesh said that this year they will go for cotton, as it has a minimum support price (MSP) at least. They pointed out that banks also do not have cash to spare, and that one has to wait in long queues in villages to withdraw money from their own accounts.
Even if the bank does not use the cheque amount to settle his loan, withdrawing money from his account after depositing the cheque itself will take many days as banks are short on cash, said Jala Jagaiah, a farmer from Visampalli village in Mahbubabad district. He was one among the few who said that their agents were paying them in cash post demonetisation.
“We don’t know how farmers get paid (by their agents), but the centre wants farmers to be paid through cheques and RTGS,” said Santosh Kumar, secretary, agricultural market committee, Khammam market yard.
A senior official from the Telangana finance department, asking not to be identified, conceded that there has been a shortage of cash, particularly in rural areas, post demonetisation. “We don’t know why there is a shortage. The Reserve Bank of India has been apprised of the situation, and the government has asked it to disburse more money to banks,” he added.
Another official from the Telangana agricultural marketing department also said that nothing much could be done about the issue by the state government. “All we can do is wait and hope that the RBI addresses the issue, as farmers are already distressed,” she stated.