The Rythu Bandhu scheme, providing all 5.8 million land-holding farmers of the state with ₹4,000 per acre, each, for both rabi and kharif seasons, was a first-of-its-kind initiative for the ailing farm sector when Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao announced it in May 2018. Less than a year later, other states and even the centre followed suit, showing that such income support schemes are here to stay.
More than five million farmers in Telangana have received the money since the Rythu Bandhu scheme was launched, said an official from the state’s agriculture department, requesting anonymity. More than ₹5,000 crore has been distributed since its launch. “Some farmers have not received their money because of documentation issues or because they have not claimed their cheque," he added.
Political analysts believe the welfare measure played a major part in Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) winning 88 of the 119 assembly seats in the elections last year. Besides, the amount under the scheme has been raised to ₹5,000 per acre now. Rao has, however, been criticized for leaving out tenant farmers.
Odisha, too, announced the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (Kalia) scheme, targeting small and marginal farmers, cultivators and landless agricultural labourers. It will provide ₹25,000 per small and marginal farmer’s family for five crop seasons, while landless farmers will get ₹12,500 for goat rearing, fishery and beekeeping, among others. Agriculture labourers will get ₹10,000 per year, per family as sustenance grant. Farmers under the scheme are also eligible for ₹50,000 as crop loans at 0% interest , and life insurance of ₹2 lakh at a subsidized rate.
The centre, meanwhile, announced the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan), wherein small and marginal farmers with less than five acres will receive ₹6,000 every year in three instalments.
Andhra Pradesh launched the Annadata Sukhibhava input subsidy scheme this year. Farmers, who are eligible for the PM-Kisan scheme, will receive an additional ₹9,000 per annum. Farmers who own more than 5 acres and are not eligible for the PM-Kisan programme, will also get ₹10,000 per year, while tenant farmers will receive ₹15,000 per year (in instalments), said Andhra Pradesh Food Commission member N. Vijay Kumar. “ ₹1,000 has already been transferred to beneficiaries under the scheme and the remaining will be transferred soon. About 69 lakh farmers are going to benefit."
Activists have welcomed the move, but also cautioned that input subsidies should not be seen as substitutes for other welfare measures.
“This kind of cash support schemes provide some relief to farmers from having to run to money lenders. Telangana gives a substantial amount, while the PM-Kisan gives almost nothing," said Kiran Vissa, national co-convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture.
Andhra and Odisha are more progressive with regard to the input subsidy schemes by including tenant farmers, and are giving more money to small and marginal farmers, Vissa said. “The problem with Telangana is that those with more land get more. Therefore, it has not given importance to equity issues. Our assessment in Telangana is that about 40% of the money is going to people who are not agriculturists."