Telangana CM KCR’s gesture of ex-gratia to protesting farmers comes under scrutiny

KCR had recently announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3 lakh to each farmer’s family who had died during the protest against farm laws.
Telangana Chief Minister KCR
Telangana Chief Minister KCR

“I have lost all hope, and I am tired of walking to the Collector’s office each time asking for the money I am entitled to,” says Vijaya, who breaks down while recalling the death of her husband. The 43-year-old, a resident of Kacharam village in Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, lost her husband, Narsi Reddy, in 2015. Her husband, a farmer, took his own life after incurring losses in cotton cultivation as a result of drought. Vijaya is one among 250 farmer’s families in Telangana who are yet to receive their promised ex-gratia. 

When Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, on November 20, had announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3 lakh each to the 750-odd farmers from north India who died fighting against the contentious farm laws as a gesture of good will, Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV) — the organisation working for the welfare of the farmers in the state — could not help but point out the plight of farmer families who are yet to receive their compensation. The Union government on November 19 announced the repeal of farm laws, which had received immense opposition over the last year, particularly by farmers from Punjab and Haryana.

According to RSV, since the state’s formation in 2014, Telangana has witnessed a total of 7409 farmer suicides, out of which the government only recognised 1598 deaths. While nearly 1300 of them had received the entitled compensation, the rest are still waiting for it. RSV has compiled data using RTIs and collating data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau. The organisation has legally challenged the government for not allocating funds for the compensation in the budget. A case has been ongoing in the Telangana High Court.

“While we wholeheartedly welcome the Telangana government’s decision to offer ex-gratia to the farmers who had died during the protest against the Union government, we also cannot be amused by it. The Telangana government has failed to look after the farmers in our own state. Though around 250 families are entitled to the ex-gratia, the government has not released a budget for them,” says Sreeharsha, a member of RSV.

Lavanya, wife of 28-year-old Siddeshwar, another resident of Yadadri Bhuvanagiri district, says, “I have made rounds to the District Collector’s office at least 15 times since my husband died. But nothing came of it. I appeal to the government to show some concern, so that I can look after my two daughters.” In 2017, Lavanya and Siddeshwar, who own just two acres of land, had cultivated cotton by taking another four acres of land on lease. However, the crops had failed. Siddeshwar, who was worried about the mounting debts, died by suicide. “Since my husband died, I have no one to take care of us. My two daughters are very young. How will I feed them?” Lavanya asks. 

Bannuru Kondal Reddy, the petitioner who filed the Public Interest Litigation in the Telangana High Court on behalf of the affected farmers’ families, says, “Most farmer suicides were recorded in Nalgonda district. In 2019, when the government kept delaying their payment, the farmers of Nalgonda approached the district court and around 90 families got their money. But this order was restricted to that particular district. There are others who are yet to get the compensation. There is a delay because the government did not allocate a budget for this cause.”

Kondal, detailing the plight of the farmers in Telangana, says, “The ordeal of Telangana farmers is immense. Only in Adilabad, the District Collector showed some concern to these families who could not prove that the victims were genuine farmers and provided them with Rs 1 lakh as grant for self-employment purposes.”

Criticising Chief Minister KCR, Kondal says, “We have nothing against the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, who will be getting the compensation. My only question is why the Chief Minister is overlooking the farmers within our state. Why isn’t he releasing the budget?” 

According to the 2020 report on farmer suicides, Telangana recorded the fourth-highest suicides in India, after Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. As per the National Crime Records Bureau data, Telangana has recorded 471 suicides, including five deaths of agricultural labour.

The Opposition Congress party has also criticised the Chief Minister, who has been praised for his statesmanship. Tamil Nadu MP Manickam Tagore, in-charge of Telangana Congress took to Twitter and said that farmers in Telangana were under distress as the TRS-led government was allegedly not providing money through Dalitha Bandhu and Rythu Bandhu. He alleged that the victims of Hyderabad floods in 2020, and the Telangana martyrs were yet to receive the compensation. According to him, in November alone, three farmers’ suicides have been reported in the state so far. 

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