Telangana government recently announced farm subsidies worth 4000 rupees per crop per acre and as most of the farmers in Telangana take two crops a year they are eligible to receive a subsidy of 8000 rupees per acre per year and an estimated 6 million farmers are expected to benefit from this scheme. But this scheme does not cover the tenant farmers. This input subsidy scheme will be implemented once the state government completes its ongoing survey to verify and update agricultural land records. The survey is being carried out in 10,733 revenue villages and is expected to be finished soon.
This subsidy initiative is expected to cost the Telangana State Rs 9600 crore. This, along with the recently announced 24-hour free power supply scheme to the state’s 23 lakh-plus agricultural pump-sets, is supposed to take a huge burden from the farmers’ shoulders. If one includes the free power scheme, the Telangana government’s ‘farmer investment support scheme’ is expected to cost a whopping Rs16,500 crore, making up a little more than 10% of the state’s annual budget.
Almost all the state governments in India are giving subsidies to the farmers in the form of cash and free power supply. But the question is, will the farmers get all these subsidies into their hands? Do the farmers get enough electric power to run their electric pump sets when power cut is so frequent and often so long? Who is going to monitor that the promised subsidy amount will be given directly to the farmers? The officials and the politically or socially powerful in India are so smart that they can twist and turn any government programme to their advantage by usurping the benefits meant for the poor. From the past experience of so many schemes let me explain some of the hidden dynamics of the subsidy and loan schemes.
The first thing we should remember about farming is that it is a losing occupation in terms of investment in capital and human energy. Hence most of the land owners who have any agriculture land would give it to tenants to cultivate and look for some other occupations in their own place or in the nearby towns or cities. Even they would be willing to take up daily wage employment instead of slogging on their land. I have come across many daily wage earners in Delhi who would say, “There is only loss in farming; we do not get back even our daily wages worth; it is better to come here (Delhi) and do some work for daily wages; here we have to work only eight hours whereas in our farms we have work day and night, in hot summer and in cold winter; besides the wages in Delhi are higher; we also like to enjoy the glamour of city life though it is hard; but compared to our villages life here is better and profitable.” Hence all the marginal farmers will not apply for the farm subsidies. Eventually most of the subsidies will be shared by the officials who are supposed to disburse them: Invisible Injustices.
Next let us take the tenant cultivators. According to Financial Express (Jan 24 2018), there are 140 million landless cultivators forming 11.2% of the estimated total population of 1250 million in our country. By the very nature of the subsidy the tenant cultivators are excluded from the above mentioned scheme. The tenant farmers may be belonging to marginal farmers; they are mostly very poor and uneducated and are unable to understand the intricate procedures of getting a subsidy or a loan. As per 2010 census 67.1% of the land holdings belong to marginal farmers. Thus the landless cultivators and marginal farmers make up a sizable percentage of the population and almost all of them will not be able to avail the government subsidies because they are not sufficiently educated to go through the lengthy paper work and office procedures. Besides the subsidy dispersing officials are often not available to those who are poor and uneducated farmers. Those who try for loan or subsidy are made to go to the offices umpteen times without any favourable result. If at all someone managed to get the subsidy he will have practically nothing after greasing the palm of officials: Invisible Injustices.
Now we shall examine the case of tribals who form 9% of the population as per 2010 census. Most of them reside in the remote areas of Himalayan and sub-Himalayan ranges extending from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh and to other North Eastern states. They are also in the hilly regions of MP, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Traditionally they are farmers and most among them are uneducated hence they will not be able to go through the paper works for availing the subsidies and loans. Besides the agriculture offices are far away from their villages and often there are no transport facilities in the remote areas. In short agricultural subsidies and loans do not reach the vast majority of the tribals. Obviously they all will be availed by fake beneficiaries in collusion with the officials: Invisible Injustices.
Next comes the Scheduled Castes (SC), Backward Castes (BC) and Other Backward Castes (OBC). As per 2011 census SCs form about 22% and BCs and OBCs together form 41.1% of the population. The cultivators among the SCs and OBCs estimated to be 98.5 and 86.3% respectively. Most of the farmers among the SCs, BCs and OBCs are illiterate or semi-literate and will not be able to avail the government declared subsidies and loans. A casual enquiry will show that most of such benefits are usurped by the upper castes and government officials under fake recipients: Invisible Injustices.
Most of the marginal and small landholders are under the grip of traditional money lenders and they are working as tenant cultivators in their own land. They pledge their little pieces of land and even the crops they cultivate every year. They are unlisted slaves in the hands of moneylenders. When any subsidy or loan schemes are announced, these money lenders take advantage of them to realize their loans back. The niche between moneylenders and development officers is an open secret. In some cases the money may be dispersed in the name of the actual beneficiary who is indebted to a moneylender. As soon as he receives the money, the moneylender would be snatching it away from his hands the entire amount or most of it. Thus most of the loan or subsidy schemes vanish into many hands that chain the transactions.
Our country is socked in corruption and it is a problem that has serious implications for protecting the rule of law and ensuring access to justice to the poor rural farmers. A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 recorded that more than 92% of Indians had at some point or another paid a bribe to a public official to get a job done. The same agency ranked India In 2017 at 81st place out of 180 in its Corruption Perception Index.
Free electricity: It is known to all that power cuts are so common in India even in the metropolitan cities. Most of the farmers who irrigate their fields keep a diesel pump set as a standby to irrigate their crops. Hence the claim of giving free power to farmers is only propaganda for the public.
Times of India 19 May 2018 reports, “According to a corruption study report Telangana is the second most poor performing state in curbing corruption in availing public services.” According to Ronak D. Desai, India continues to be among the most corrupt countries in the world (Forbes Billionaires, Mar 7, 2018).
95% of the farmers are caught up in the whirlpool of corruption network swirled by the nexus between bank employees, government officials and local money lenders and they seem to have no other option than committing suicide or die in debt: Invisible Injustices.
(The writer is retired Professor at XIM Bhubaneswar. firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Published on 02nd July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 27)