Agrarian crisis haunting two Telugu states
Growing farmers’ suicides all over the country symbolise the deep agrarian crisis. With over two lakh farmers committing suicides over the past two decades, India’s farmers are giving a call to the nation’s conscience. Ultimately, this remains as an indictment of new-economic policies initiated in 1991, which are said to be without a human face
Two Telugu states—Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have seen some of the worst times in terms of farmer suicides. Since the formation of the Telangana state in June, 2014, nearly 1500 farmers have committed suicide, just counting from news reports. Even before the state bifurcation, united Andhra Pradesh was second in the country for farmer suicides behind Maharashtra, with almost 2500 farmer suicides every year, as per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Growing farm suicides all over the country symbolise the deep agrarian crisis. With over two lakh farmers committing suicides over the past two decades, India’s farmers are giving a call to the nation’s conscience. Ultimately, this remains as an indictment of new-economic policies initiated in 1991, which said to be without a human face.
As per the recent NCRB data, Telangana recorded the second-highest farmer suicides in the country with Maharashtra topping the list. Andhra Pradesh is positioned eighth.
Nearly 75 per cent of the farming in Telangana is on dry land and 80 per cent of the farmers come under small and marginal categories. Due to lack of land ownership records, institutional credit is accessible only to 30 per cent farmers, while the majority still relies on private money-lenders by paying exorbitant interest. So, the government’s farm loan waiver scheme has not benefited most farmers, which pushed them into further debts.
During the period of state bifurcation, it was felt Andhra Pradesh was fortunate with agriculture potential and pointed out as one of the advanced state in the country in farm sector. But within a year, the government focus shifted to attract investments and busy in offering them many attractive opportunities, but hardly found time on farm issues. Tobacco was considered to be very profitable commercial crop and tobacco farmers are known as `wealthy’ section of the society. But, for the first time suicide by three tobacco farmers in Prakasam district exposed the government’s negligence towards farm sector and deep-rooted crisis prevailed among farming community.
Though Hyderabad is seeing a services and manufacturing sector boom, the majority of the workforce in Telangana is still eking out their livelihood in agriculture — a sector that’s seriously strained. The support systems required to sustain small and marginalised farmers are facing gross neglect. There is a big increase in the proportion of tenant farmers. But they are completely excluded from the loans, crop insurance or disaster compensation. While the farmers are facing second consecutive drought year, they have not received any compensation even for the losses of the previous year.
Retired High Court Judge Justice Chandra Kumar deplored that both the Telugu state governments have failed to come to the rescue of cursing farming community. According to him the major reason for farmer’s miseries is growing cost of cultivation. Due to MGNREGS labour wages have increased multi-fold, seeds are now in the clutches of big companies who are exploiting them very badly and the prices offered to their produces are not remunerate to the cost of cultivation.
Former MP and farmer’s leader Dr Y Shivaji said that more than 80 per cent farmers are small and marginal with below two acres of holdings. In many cases, he felt the standard of living of labourer is at higher side than most of farmers. “There are many agencies to come to the risk of labourer during distress and drought conditions. But when crops failed and farmer unable to make his cultivation none to help him”, he added.
The immediate provocation for growing suicides and agrarian crisis in both the Telugu states is attributed to the failure of the respective state governments in implementing their election-related assurance of loan waiver. Even after 16 months, Telangana government is yet to waive half of loan burden. As a result farmers are being unable to secure fresh loans and their interest burden is likely to become more than the amount of loan waived. Justice Chandra Kumar said that the immediate need is that both the governments should free farmers from indebtedness, to the extent they promised during elections and as per Government orders they issued after coming to power. Moreover, they should be provided with fresh bank loans for agricultural operations.
In the recent monsoon session of Telangana Assembly the government assured a detailed discussion on farm suicides. However, after a discussion on unfavourable weather conditions, the government avoided detailed discussion on farm suicides. For the first time Chief Minister K Chadnrasekhar Rao referred to farm suicides and appealing farmers not to resort to such extreme steps. But, by suspending all the opposition members for seeking the government to come out with an action plan to put an end to suicides for five days, the session was concluded three-days in advance.
National Alliance of People’s Movement’s National Convenor B Ramakrishna Raju deplored that after bifurcation in both the Telugu states new governments are pursuing pro-corporate policies at double speed, competing with each other to become the “premier investment destination.” The Telangana government has laid out the red carpet to corporate investors, promising fast track clearance with 15-days deadline and counter guarantee provision for bank loans. Three industrial corridors are planned in the state, along with other National Manufacturing Investment Zones and thermal power plants. Whereas, the Andhra Pradesh government has given highest priority to the construction of a new “Singapore” as its capital taking away the most fertile lands in the Krishna delta area for mad urbanization. In this context, Raju said it is necessary to fundamentally question the development priorities of both the governments and bring the agrarian crisis and livelihoods of more than one crore people engaged in the unorganised sector including agriculture to the centre-state of the debate.
By C h Narendra from Hyderabad