Despite the massive scope of this farm subsidy initiative, serious concerns remain over its cost and the implications for tenant farmers.
In a significant push towards greater state-sponsored farm subsidies, the Telangana government is expected to deliver Rs 8000 per acre from its coffers to 72 lakh farmers irrespective of the crop grown, size of land-holding, price or the quantity sold, reported The Indian Express.
This amount is expected to cover input costs, including the purchase of seeds, fertiliser, pesticide and other potential expenses. Farmers will receive the first tranche of Rs 4000 per acre ahead of the upcoming kharif season before June and the second in October before they sow their rabi crop.
This subsidy initiative is expected to cost the state Rs 9600 crore. “Rs 4,000/acre is what our farmers spend on an average towards the purchase of inputs and field preparation for various crops. This, along with our recent free 24-hour power supply scheme (for the state’s 23 lakh-plus agricultural pump-sets), should take a huge burden off farmers’ shoulders. They would now only have to bear the expenses on hiring farm labour,” said Pocharam Srinivas Reddy, Telangana’s agriculture minister, to The Indian Express.
If one includes the free power scheme, the Telangana government’s ‘farmer investment support scheme’ is expected to cost a whopping Rs 16,000-16,500 crore, making up more than 10% of the state’s budgeted expenditure.
“The survey conducted by the revenue department last October-December showed the total number of the farmer population is at 72 lakhs. 98% of them own less than 10 acres, about 1.75% between 10 and 25 acres, and only the rest 0.25% more than 25 acres. So, the scheme will largely benefit small farmers, even while not leaving out anybody who has land to cultivate,” added Reddy.
To identify potential beneficiaries, the State government will distribute land ownership passbooks to all 72 lakh farmers identified by the revenue department.
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“The passbook will have the farmer’s name, land survey number, holding size in acres, Aadhaar ID, mobile phone and other relevant details. It would serve as proof of land ownership, making the farmer eligible for any such subsidy/transfer scheme. If a well-to-do farmer wants to give up the subsidy entitlement, he is always free to do so,” said an official of the agriculture department.
Despite its broad scope, serious concerns exist surrounding the cost. This initiative also does not include tenant cultivators, who grow crops on land they take on a lease. They comprise 40% of the state’s farmers and are the ones usually caught in the vicious cycle of debt. A senior official in the state’s agriculture department argues they had little choice but to leave them out.
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“It’s a conscious decision we have taken to avoid litigation. Tenant farmers mostly cultivate based on informal lease arrangements, and they have no proof of cultivating such lands. The actual landowners may well go to court if their tenants are treated as farmers and entitled to the subsidy,” says a senior official to the publication.