'Shown less respect than dogs': Tenant farmer kills self in Telangana over Rythu Bandhu
'Shown less respect than dogs': Tenant farmer kills self in Telangana over Rythu Bandhu

'Shown less respect than dogs': Tenant farmer kills self in Telangana over Rythu Bandhu

Venkateswaralu Rao, a tenant farmer who killed himself in front of Gandhi Bhavan on Friday, left two notes – one for the Chief Minister and one for the Agriculture Minister.

When D Venkateswaralu Rao, a tenant farmer from Kusumanchi in Khammam district, left to Hyderabad at 4.30 am on Friday, his family had no idea that he would kill himself by noon, by consuming poison outside the Gandhi Bhavan. The 50-year-old killed himself because tenant farmers are not being extended the benefits of Rythu Bandhu – a state government scheme that provides investment support to farmers.

Venkateswaralu Rao’s son Rajinikanth speaking to TNM said, “My father told us that his health condition was not good as he had low blood pressure and was going to Hyderabad for treatment.” Venkateswaralu was farming on 30 to 40 acres of land he had taken on a lease but suffered losses. He then decided to farm on six acres of land but again the crops failed. At the time of his suicide, he had accumulated a debt of Rs 9 lakh.

In the videos of Venkateswaralu’s suicide that have emerged, he can be seen lying before Gandhi Bhavan after consuming poison, and can be heard saying “I have met many government officials before and all of them promised to help me, even saying that they'll take it up with the Collector.”

Venkateswaralu left behind two letters, one addressed to the Chief Minister and the other to the state’s Agriculture Minister, said the police. In the letters, he questioned the state government's decision to not extend the Rythu Bandhu scheme for tenant farmers.

In his letter addressed to the Chief Minister of Telangana, the deceased tenant farmer asks, “The government gave Rs 4,000 to farmers under Rythu Bandhu scheme, but tenant farmers did not get anything. Erstwhile Andhra Pradesh CM N Kiran Kumar Reddy had proposed to give financial benefits to the tenant farmers, but a few days after his proposal Telangana came and nobody cared about tenant farmers. The money you are spending on the meetings can be given to the poor tenant farmers for their welfare.”

In the letter addressed to the agricultural minister, Venkateswaralu said, “About 50% of the farmers in the state are tenant farmers. You are paying Rs 4,000 and giving insurance to the rest, but it seems that you don’t have any benefits for tenant farmers. We are shown less respect than dogs.”

The Telangana Chief Minister has denied the scheme to tenant farmers on grounds that there was no clarity on who a tenant farmer was in the state. “It is meaningless to demand that the Rythu Bandhu scheme should be made applicable to tenant farmers. Such an argument is against all legal norms. The government is implementing the Rythu Bandhu scheme to extend investment support of Rs 8,000 per acre to all the farmers in the state. This scheme is extended to every farmer without any discrimination,” said K Chandrashekar Rao, Telangana Chief Minister at a review meeting in July.

“The government does not have details of tenant farmers. Nowhere in the official records are details of tenant farmers mentioned. Similarly, no farmer ever recognises a tenant farmer. The so-called tenant farmers will not have any right to the land,” he added.

The government has come under severe criticism for this stand since a large percentage of farmers who need the support actually don’t own any land.

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