NGO for rationalising Telangana's 'Rythu Bandhu' to check 'squandering' of public money

About 50 per cent of Rs 15,000 crore being spent every year by the Telangana government on 'Rythu Bandhu', an investment support scheme for farmers, is going to big landlords, politicians, employees and income tax assesses, said Forum for Good Governance, a Hyderabad-based NGO.

Stating that there is heavy drain of public funds in the scheme, the NGO urged Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan to intervene in the matter to ensure its rationalisation.

In a letter to the Governor, M. Padmanabha Reddy, Secretary, Forum for Good Governance, said that there is a need to revamp Rythu Bandhu on the lines of the PM KISAN programme, which is being implemented with certain exclusions.

He pointed out that the Rythu Bandhu scheme is wide open for any farmer without any restrictions.

According to a rough estimate, out of Rs 15,000 crores spent on Rythu Bandhu, 50 per cent has been pocketed by big landlords and absentee landlords, including NRIs.

Most of the politicians have large chunk of lands under their control and are the beneficiaries, he said.

Reddy also made certain suggestions to avoid squandering of public money.

He suggested that Rythu Bandhu be limited to 5 acres landholding and fallow lands and lands not under cultivation be excluded. He also demanded that politicians, bureaucrats, IT assesses, NRIs, employees etc. should be excluded.

The NGO requested the Governor to direct the Chief Secretary to get the scheme reviewed by experts and limit it to small and marginal farmers only.

"Why a tax payer's money be doled out to politicians, landlords and bureaucrats," it asked.

The NGO said that Rythu Bandhu is an excellent scheme which helped the farmers come out of the debt trap.

When the scheme was introduced in 2018, an amount of Rs 8,000 per acre in two installments was provided. Subsequently, it was increased to Rs 10,000 per acre. Annually, the government spends about Rs 15,000 crore for the implementation of this scheme.

According to the guidelines issued by the state government in 2018, Rythu Bandhu was proposed for providing investment support to agriculture and horticulture crops by way of a grant of Rs 4,000 per acre per farmer each season for the purchase of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and labour.

The guidelines further stated that the amount of grant under the Rythu Bandhu scheme is Rs 4,000 per acre per crop season.

"This implies that if the farmer cultivates the land during Rabi season also, he is eligible to receive another grant of Rs 4,000 per acre of cropped area. It is clear that the grant is given for cultivation only and fallow lands are excluded," Reddy wrote.

He also mentioned that to augment the income of small and marginal farmers, the government of India has launched a new central scheme namely Pradhan Mantri Kishan Samman Nidhi (PM KISAN).

Under this scheme, Rs 6,000 per year will be paid to the eligible farmers in three installments. This scheme has many elimination clauses such as land holding size not more than 5 acres, and exclusion of persons holding any constitutional post, politicians, employees of central/state governments, income tax assesses etc.

The NGO said these restrictions are ensuring that only the needy, small and marginal farmers get the money.

Under the PM Kishan scheme, about 40 lakh small and marginal farmers got about Rs 6,200 crore in Telangana.

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