Mono-crops, agrarian crisis and more: Telangana farmers take the stage to educate peers

'Doolam Ekkina Moodu Koyyalu', a play organised by Kudali, gives farmers a platform to communicate their issues and provide their insight.
Mono-crops, agrarian crisis and more: Telangana farmers take the stage to educate peers
Mono-crops, agrarian crisis and more: Telangana farmers take the stage to educate peers

Farmers from the marginalized communities — Dalits, minorities and BCs — who earlier remained spectators while others performed will take the stage to communicate their problems on Sunday.

They will also be discussing the agrarian crisis and give their insight.

'Doolam Ekkina Moodu Koyyalu', a play directed by N Madhoo, focusses on the plight of farmers.

“I have studied the lives of the farmers, asked their problems and designed characters based on the problems which have affected them,” says Madhoo.

Madhoo, who has worked with Adivasi communities earlier, says that his theatre style is inspired by famous Brazilian artist Augusto Boal, the founder of Theatre of the Oppressed.

For 40 days, farmers who own less than five acres of land underwent rigorous theatre training in Telangana. They rehearsed lines and songs so that they could educate other farmers and discuss problems pertaining to agriculture, particularly about mono-crops, which they say, is leading farmers into a cycle of debt that eventually claims their lives.

Madhoo says that the play is interactive, and the audience is asked questions. This is an integral part of the Theatre of the Oppressed, where the spectator becomes an active part of the show.

The performance will be held in Badampet village in Telangana’s Sangareddy District. It will be held at and organised by Kudali Centre, an NGO which works with farmers.

Kudali has conducted workshops and has held theatre performances in three villages of Telangana so far. This will spread to other villages too, says Charanya, an activist and a member of Kudali.

She says that the play talks about the caste system, how exploitative it is, and how identities of their communities need to be asserted. The structure of the play largely remains the same, but is adapted to the village where it is performed.

“Kudali is also imparting political education besides talking about agriculture, farming techniques etc,” Charanya adds.   

Veerasham, one of the performs says that there has been a crisis due to mono-crops.

“Small farmers have been facing a major problem ever since they started relying on mono-crops. In our area, everyone relies on cotton and there is no cultivation of other crops like paddy, wheat or pulses. After shifting to commercial cultivation, if we examine, we are not earning any profits but are incurring losses and accumulating debt,” says Veeresham, one of the performers.

“Imagine a farmer going to a provisional store to buy rice and pulses. That’s how sad our situation has become,” he rues.

Dr Sagari Ramdass, a member of Kudali stress on the need to address the food crisis in the state.

“Earlier, farmers would grow their own food and sell the surplus. But now, there’s a major change where farmers are cultivating only cotton or other cash crops and are buying rice and pulses from retailers just like others. This is not a good system. The food cultivation needs to be diversified so that even if one crop fails, the farmer does go into distress and commit suicide,” she says.

“The farmers are also worried about this trend as it is leading them into a debt trap. When we interacted with farmers, we found out that the trend where farmers gave up the cultivation of other crops and started cultivating only cotton spread across Telangana about 20 years ago. The problem was of unequal land distribution. Earlier, tenant farmers would take land for lease from rich upper caste farmers, who, in exchange, would demand half of their produce as their price. But later, they started demanding money, and hence these small farmers had to shift to the cultivation of commercial crops,” she says.

Dr Sagari says that this is a platform for them to discuss their problems and share ideas.

“These are the problems of the marginal farmers. Problems they are aware of. But there is no platform for them to facilitate a dialogue. So Kudali has given them the platform through which they can discuss their own sufferings and share each other’s ideas,” she adds.

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