Jagan on the verge of losing Farmers’ votes?
Crop Holiday is something the Telugu States have heard until the 2000s when farmers declared them due to failure in receiving payment from the government for buying the crop. But, after almost 15 years, we are against hearing of crop holiday under the Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy-led government in Andhra Pradesh.
Here’s the story — Konaseema farmers have declared a ‘crop holiday’ in the Godavari delta in Konaseema district owing to delay in payment of paddy procured by the government and poor access to irrigation water through the existing canal system.
Responding to this Konaseema Collector Himanshu Shukla said: “Farmers have communicated to me, about their decision of declaring the ‘crop holiday’ (for Kharif 2022). I have appealed to them to withdraw their decision and assured me to address their demands including desilting of drains and canal systems”.
Pending Payments After Procurement
By June 8, farmers from Allavaram, Katrenikona, Uppalaguptam and I.Polavaram Mandals under the Godavari delta have declared the crop holiday without commencing the Kharif operations. The government has been promising to pay the pending dues for quite some time but hasn’t done so, apart from releasing Rs. 120 crore on June 8th, which is too late to prepare for the upcoming cultivation season.
On June 1, the water was released into the Godavari delta from Sir Arthur Cotton barrage at Dowleswaram, aiming to commence the Kharif season early to prevent crop loss in the cyclones in winter. But, however, there is a need for modernization of existing canal systems as well as desilting of the irrigation drainage system, which were supposed to be done before the cropping seasons.
Additionally, the YSRCP government has been making empty promises on repairing canals and other desilting works which need to be completed on time to ensure a smooth cropping season for farmers. But, when paddy belt farmers in AP declare a crop holiday, they are full of chaos — in fact, they are “short of committing suicide, they downed their tools, blocked the irrigation channels and declared ‘enough is enough; we cannot afford any more losses; we will not cultivate this season.”
Genesis of Crop Holiday
The crop holiday movement was initiated by Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), a farmers’ organisation afﬁliated to the Hindutva organisation, the RSS. The last time Andhra Pradesh was a crop holiday it was in 2011 Kharif Season. At the time, transplantation did not take place in about 85,761 acres of farmland. About three lakh tonnes of paddy were not produced due to the crop holiday in the Konaseema region.
The costs of agricultural labour and other inputs are much higher than the support price that is being offered in the region. Farmers did not get reasonable prices either from the govern- ment or the market. The tenants and small farmers who do not have enough storage space sold it to shavukars (moneylenders) at distress prices. The moneylenders either stocked the paddy for better prices in the future or sold it to millers at a better price.
However, farmers’ resentment grew against the state for it could not procure paddy (due to lack of storage space) at reasonable prices. Similar issues are now cropping up after 11 years under the Jaganmohan Reddy-led government. The government has still not paid the farmers their dues even 6 months after buying their crop and it even stopped giving subsidies to farmers.
So, the way forward would be to improve its procurement mechanisms (support prices, storage capacity) of paddy and streamline the payment process soon after procurement.
Meanwhile, the government needs to explore ways to ensure that tenant farmers have access to institutional credit. They need better protection, while they should be able to directly access various other state support packages meant for actual cultivators (including crop insurance).
TEJASWINI PAGADALA is an independent communications consultant. She has previously worked with the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office as the Communications Officer where she has written English speeches for the CM, managed English media communication from the CMO and handled social media accounts of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and the Government.