Why tenant farmers are not getting Andhra’s promised welfare schemes

A detailed study by Rythu Swarajya Vedika has surveyed nearly 4,000 farmers across 9 districts in the state has revealed interesting details.
Farmers clearing weeds
Farmers clearing weeds
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A detailed study on tenant farmers in Andhra Pradesh has brought to light how they are in a dire situation. The study which was carried out by Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV) revealed that only 9.6% of tenant farmers have received the Crop Cultivator Rights Cards (CCRC). This makes them not eligible for several farmer welfare schemes of the government including the well-publicised Rythu Bharosa.

In 2019, reiterating the government’s commitment to farmers, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy assured inclusion of tenant farmers in all its schemes including the Rythu Bharosa scheme which promised direct cash transfer to farmers. In July 2019, the Andhra Pradesh assembly approved the Andhra Pradesh Crop Cultivator Rights Act 2019. The new Act provided for the issuance of CCRC to cultivators of leased lands. However, the Act required tenant farmers to submit the signature of the land owner on the application for the CCRC. The CCRC will ensure crop loans, disaster compensation, crop procurement and benefits under the Rythu Bharosa would reach the tenant farmers. The Act prescribed that the Village Revenue Officer or the village volunteer shall facilitate the land owner and the tenant to come together to obtain the signature on the CCRC.

The study revealed that only 364 out of the 3,855 tenant farmers received CCRC cards and this accounted for only 9.6% of the tenant farmers. It was found that the biggest obstacle to the CCRC was obtaining signatures from the owner of the land. Land owners were showing reluctance to sign the CCRC due to various reasons. Village officials were also not able to convince them to sign on the cards as required by the Act.

The study found that if the land owners signed the application and the tenant farmer received the CCRC, 59% of them did not receive the benefits promised. Only 17% of those who received CCRC have received the benefits under Rythu Bharosa and only 1% have received disaster compensation for crop loss, as promised. “This means that despite the well-publicised promise of the government to extend Rythu Bharosa to landless tenant farmers, only 3% of the landless tenants are receiving Rythu Bharosa,” revealed the survey in its report.

On October 26, 2021, the Jagan Mohan Reddy government released Rs 2,190 crore as financial assistance under three schemes designed to benefit farmers. The money released was the second tranche of YSR Rythu Bharosa, YSR Sunna Vaddi crop loans, and YSR Yantra Seva schemes. Speaking on the occasion of release of the money, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy had said, “In the past, farmers in Andhra Pradesh were so burdened that they would end their lives. Now the state has flourished into an example for farmer welfare, so much so that other states are replicating our farmer welfare schemes.” 

Under Rythu Bharosa, the state government is extending financial assistance of Rs 13,500 per year to eligible farmers in three instalments. Until October, the state government had disbursed Rs 18,777 crore in two years to the farmers through this scheme. 

Lack of awareness

It was also found that in several districts there is a lack of awareness about the CCRC due to lack of campaigns carried out to educate and inform the farmers. While in East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur, there is a high degree of awareness among the tenant farmers, in Visakhapatnam, Prakasham, YSR Kadapa, Anantapur and Kurnool, there is a lack of awareness about CCRC. Sixty six percent of the tenant farmers in these districts have not heard about CCRC.

Crop Loss compensation

More than 90% of the tenant farmers reported that they suffered severe crop loss in at least one out of the past three years. Despite this, it was found that only 1% of the tenant farmers received any disaster compensation. This largely contributed to pushing the tenant farmers into debt traps.

Tenant farmers are in debt traps

The study also revealed how the tenant farmers are in a dire situation financially. On an average, the tenant farmers have a debt of Rs 2 lakh each. This is largely due to the burden of rents which ranges from Rs 20,000 to Rs 1.2 lakh lakh per acre. In coastal districts, the tenant farmers paid the land owners in rice bags.

Number of tenant farmers

While the agriculture department has pegged the number of tenant farmers in the state at 16 lakh, the study found that the Radhakrishna Commission report’s estimate of 24.25 lakh was closer to reality. The study found that the number of tenant farmers is quite high in districts like Anantapur, Kadapa, Visakhapatnam where the government estimates portray it as low.

The way forward

Based on the findings in the study, Rythu Swarajya Vedika has suggested that the government should do away with the requirement of obtaining land owners’ signatures on the CCRC. “The village level officials should be responsible for verification of the land lease based on Gram Sabha,” proposed RSV.

It is also necessary that the government carry out a visible campaign to inform and make the tenant farmers aware of their rights and the welfare schemes available for them. Above all, RSV also feels that the government should extend special benefits to tenant farmers above what is offered to other farmers so that exclusion of tenant farmers can be reversed.

The study by RSV was conducted in January and February, 2022 and covered nine districts in the state. The door-to-door survey reached out to nearly 4,000 tenant farmers.

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