Hyderabad: The Telangana government on Thursday introduced Rythu Bandhu, a scheme to provide Rs4,000 per acre each to land-owning farmers for rabi and kharif seasons, and issued special passbooks for them.
The programme, which has faced criticism from farmer groups for not including tenant farmers, was flagged off by chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, who distributed 298 cheques to farmers at Huzoorabad mandal in Karimnagar district. Beneficiaries will get the amount even if they do not take up farming. The state government has set aside Rs12,000 crore in the 2018-19 budget for Rythu Bandhu.
On Thursday, officials from the state agriculture and revenue departments also took up the same across all the 31 districts in the state. Nearly 58 lakh farmers are expected to receive cheques as part of the programme over the coming three months. They will also be given ‘Pattadar’ pass books, which the government claims has 17 unique security features, as one single proof of ownership.
Earlier this week, deputy chief minister Mahmood Ali said a little of over Rs5,300 crore will be disbursed in the following days for the Kharif season. Farmers will again receive cheques for the Rabi season.
Before implementation, the government verified agricultural land records to ensure names of farmers legally owning farm lands correctly is reflected in government records. A senior official from the revenue department which is verifying land records, on condition of anonymity, said 90% land records in the 10,733 revenue villages in the state have been verified and updated.
The scheme is seen as the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s (TRS) outreach to the farming community, especially after angry chilli farmers last April ransacked the Khammam market yard after prices fell steeply.
While the Telangana government said Rythu Bandhu will help encourage or boost agriculture in the state, farmer groups have criticised it for not including tenant farmers. Officials from both the agriculture and revenue departments, who did not want to be quoted, however said there is no way to verify tenant farmers, and hence they were excluded.
Kiran Kumar Vissa from the Rythu Swaraj Vedika (which works on farmer issues in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) said state government officials have been evasive on the issue of including tenant farmers in the latest scheme. “The joint state of Andhra Pradesh had passed the Land License Cultivators Act in 2011 for the benefit of tenant farmers so that they can avail of benefits like loans. The Act has been adopted by Telangana after it was created and it can be used for verification," he claimed.
A day before the scheme’s launch, farmer groups under the banner of the All India Kisan Sabha Coordination Committee had protested across all district headquarters in the state for non-inclusion of tenant farmers. “We are also planning to conduct a Rasta Roko programme with farmers in the next few weeks near Karimnagar district," Vissa added.