TBA Opinion

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. 

Way Forward

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).

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