Issues related to farmers in this country have become an Achilles’ heel for the Narendra Modi government. While the central government has been fumbling for a solution after withdrawing the three farm bills in December 2021, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) has obviously been quicker on the uptake. He has promised to provide free power to farmers across the country once a non-BJP government takes charge at the Centre soon after the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
KCR’s announcement has started finding resonance across the country as he is offering to the farmers of the country a model that he is already delivering in Telangana.
Contrary to the promises made by the NDA government to double the income of farmers by 2022, the central government has done precious little on this front. The price of seeds and fertiliser is skyrocketing and input cost of farmers has increased substantially. Under extreme pressure from agitating farmers, Centre withdrew the three farm laws after a year-long farmers’ protest. In stark contrast, KCR has championed the cause of farmers in Telangana for the past eight years.
India still has 70 per cent of its population dependent on agriculture. This sector is one of the biggest contributors to the country’s GDP. Experts have opined that our country was able to withstand the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on the economy only because India is predominantly an agriculture-based economy. So the focus of KCR on the agriculture sector and farmers is not only rooted in ground reality but seems to be a dexterous move which has taken Opposition parties by surprise.
When the Telangana CM promises to give free electricity to farmers, he has a ready reckoner with him. He claims that the BJP government waived non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks to the tune of Rs 12 lakh crore, the expenditure on free electricity to farmers would cost around Rs 1.45 lakh crore only. This will augment the income of farmers which are otherwise forced to live a life of penury.
Farmers’ suicides are testimony to the fact that their issues take a back seat in the parliamentary system.
KCR’s announcement is not a hollow promise, he is delivering it for the farmers of entire Telangana. He wants to implement the Telangana model for the entire country. An irrigation-deficient region like Telangana needed a visionary project and the CM has come up with the Kaleshwaram project. This irrigation project was conceived and implemented by the Telangana CM in less than five years. This Rs 1 lakh crore project is the costliest irrigation project of the country which is testimony to the fact KCR that has metamorphosed the agriculture sector of the state. It has improved the prospects of farmers in the state to double their income. Punjab is at the top in agricultural production and now Telangana has equalled Punjab in food production.
Every farmer needs input cost for agricultural production. Under Rayathu Bandhu scheme, the Telangana government has decided to provide Rs 10,000 per acre per farmer every year for purchasing seeds, fertiliser, pesticides and labour. This amount of Rs 10,000 per acre per farmer every year is transferred straight away into the accounts of farmers. So far the state government has disbursed Rs 57,000 crore to farmers. By March 31, 2023, this disbursement will reach approximately Rs 64,000 crore.
This scheme is a boon for the farmers of Telangana, saving them from the clutches of money lenders and the indifference of the banking sector.
Farmers are also lacking in terms of social security. Telangana government has launched Rayathu Bima scheme which provides the farmers coverage under the Group Life Insurance Scheme. It is an attempt to provide financial relief and social security to family members in case of loss of life of a farmer. Farmers in the age group 18-59 years are eligible for enrolment under this scheme. The entire premium for farmers is paid by the Telangana government to the Life Insurance Corporation of India.
In case of the death of the enrolled farmer, due to any cause whether natural or otherwise, an amount of Rs 5 lakh is deposited into the designated account of the nominee within ten days of the demise of the said farmer. This scheme has a tremendous impact on bereaved families for sustenance.
The Chief Minister recently announced that Rs 1,000 crore will be allocated for the permanent solution to all the flood problems in Bhadrachalam area including the construction of residential colonies on a permanent basis for the development of embankment, and provide permanent solution to all flood problems. He assured the people of the flood-affected areas that there is nothing to fear and that the government will take all necessary measures for their protection.
KCR has decided to build colonies for the flood- affected people on a permanent basis. He directed concerned authorities to identify suitable places in flood-proof high places, collect complete information about the victims and take up construction projects.
Recently, over 100 farmers’ organisations from 26 states participated in a two-day programme in Hyderabad. This was presided over by the Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao. KCR appealed to the farmers to join politics to resolve their own problems. In a democratic country, there is a democratic process to solve any problem and protests should be organised as and when the need arises. In a democracy, voters are king but they failed to realise their strength. He told them it is absolutely incorrect to harbour the notion that it is wrong to be in politics. Farmers participating in the programme must reach their areas, organise meetings with their people, discuss their problem; prepare a national level programme, discuss the matter with scientists, economists, journalists and intellectuals and deliberate with them. A blueprint must be prepared to discuss the problem of farmers in the meeting and deliberate upon their solutions.
KCR also talked about a training programme for farmers. The farming community must use the power of their votes against the people who are planning to hand over the agricultural sector to industrialists, he said. This was a major motivation for the year-long farmers’ agitation in New Delhi.
All in all, it is clear that KCR has embarked on his mission with farmers at the forefront of his national agenda.