The Telangana government’s decision to regulate crop cultivation has not gone down well with farmer organizations which have demanded that the state withdraw its “unilateral" decision, which also includes farmers losing out on benefits if they fail to adhere to the new policy, which was announced by chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) earlier this month. The organizations will also hold a protest on 27 May in the state.
At a meeting held by farmer organizations on Saturday in Hyderabad, farmer organizations also opposed the expansion of cotton cultivation to 70 lakh acres in the state, which was announced earlier this week by Rao. “Government should consult farmer organizations and experts to make a comprehensive agriculture policy promoting crop diversity, sustainability and farm incomes. Incentives should be based on this," said a press release from the farmer groups.
The meeting was called by Rythu Swarajya Vedika, which works with farmers in Telangana and Andhra, and was attended by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-affiliared All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and a representative from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), etc. The attendees strongly opposed the state government’s decision to decide which crops should be grown and to what extent across all the 33 districts.
KCR, while announcing his intention to form a new policy to regulate crop cultivation, also said that farmers who do not follow it will stand to lose benefits of the Rythu Bandhu scheme, under which all lad-owning farmers receive Rs.5000 in both the Rabi and Kharif crops every year (Rs.10,000 cumulative). Farmer organizations have however also taken exception to this. They demanded that the government should hold first come up with a comprehensive agriculture policy through extensive consultation with farmer organizations and experts.
“The appropriate cropping pattern and how to incentivize it should be part of such a broader plan, not a knee-jerk announcement dictating 3 or 4 crops," added the release from the farmer groups. Sarampalli Malla Reddy, vice-president of the AIKS said that the government should first ensure all support systems for farmer including minimum support prices (MSP), procurement and marketing facilities, timely crop loans, crop insurance and disaster compensation.
Moreover, the organizations also said that tenant farmers, who have been left out of the Rythu Bandhu scheme’s ambit, should also be offered the same support. Prof. M. Kodandaram, president of the TJS, an opposition party, said, “It is clear that the unilateral decisions of the Telangana government will harm the farmers. Changing the cropping pattern takes a whole generation to work hard and take risk in the field, and cannot happen because of decisions in AC halls in Hyderabad."
On Saturday, a press release from KCR’s office also said that a majority of people depending on agriculture is “not a symbol of progress" and that is why industrialisation is needed. “Telangana is congenial for agri(culture)based industries. Hence a lot of effort should be put in to get more agri(culture) based industries in the state. With this, both the industries and service sectors will expand," it added.
Prior to that, KCR, after meetings with experts and officials from the state’s agriculture department had said that paddy should be sowed on about 70 lakh acres in the state. The new policy change is likely to come into effect from this monsoon. The state government is also all set to undertake a massive survey, district-wise, to understand the cropping pattern as part of the new policy.