A review by Wadha na todo abhyayan
On the night of July 4, Korishala Ravi stepped out of his house that is right across a branch of the State Bank of Hyderabad in Kodakandla village of Medak district in Telangana. The 35-year-old farmer had applied for a loan to the branch three times but his plea was rejected each time, forcing him to turn to moneylenders. Few hours later, not too far away from the bank branch, he was found dead, his body hanging from a tree.
Ravi’s village is part of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao’s Gajwale constituency. Rao had identified it to be developed as a model village.
On September 23, Polu Rajaiah, a 48-year-old landless farmer of Thotapalli village in Karimnagar district, got himself a hair cut and asked his wife to make his favourite curry. After lunch, he went to their field about one km away, drank pesticide and died. Rajaiah had been borrowing money, first to take two acres on lease, then another four acres, and to purchase seeds and fertilisers, but his maize crop had failed, leaving
him with a debt of Rs 3 lakh.
Since Rao took over as the chief minister on June 2, there have been 79 farmer deaths officially recognised as ‘suicides’ in the newly formed state. Beera Ramulu, a farmer and RTI activist associated with NGO Rythu Swarajya Vedika, puts the number at more than 300. Most of these farmers died in Warangal (83), Karimnagar (40) and Medak (70) districts. However, Agriculture Minister P Srinivas Reddy says not all farmer suicides are related to crops.
Like most of the others, Rajaiah and Ravi were both tenant farmers, and they did not fit anywhere in the system designed to help and protect farmers — be it loan eligibility cards, crop loans, easy bank credit, farm-loan waiver scheme or agriculture subsidies — as they had no land to show as collateral. That left them at the mercy of moneylenders charging interest rates as high as 24 per cent per annum. Now their families have to prove the deaths were solely linked to their crops to be entitled to ex-gratia — another uphill battle.
On November 13, the RBI issued a circular to all banks on financing ‘Bhoomi heen kisan (landless farmers)’, as per an announcement in the Budget. Under it, landless farmers can form ‘Joint Liability Groups’ and avail of loans through NABARD for farm and non-farm activities, standing as guarantors for each other. The measure, it is believed, would go a long way towards resolving denial of loans to landless farmers. Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has proposed financing at least 5 lakh joint farming groups this financial year.
Ravi’s brother Balanarasimha, a taxi driver, says Ravi’s loan applications were rejected because he didn’t own any land to show as collateral. “They asked for land ownership documents first to even consider the application,” he says. Ravi had taken five acres on lease to grow cotton, maize and paddy, of which two acres belonged to a relative who had already taken a loan on the land. The owner of the remaining three acres refused to give him a lease agreement, which would have made Ravi eligible for loan. State Bank of Hyderabad Kodakandla Branch Manager Sheikh Abdul Kareem says, “Farmers seeking loans have to give us a copy of the land title in his name, or, in case of tenants, a copy of the lease agreement signed by the owner. We cannot give loans if the documents are not clear or there is a dispute regarding ownership.” The Korakandla branch caters to nine nearby villages, with at least 7,000 farmers. Since January, it has given 500 new crop loans and rescheduled 700 old loans under the Telangana government’s crop loan waiver scheme, but the amount of loan given is very small. For cotton crop, it is Rs 20,000 while for paddy, it is Rs 18,000 per season. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government in the state had announced a Rs 17,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme, to fulfill its poll promise. Under the scheme, outstanding amounts as on March 31, 2014 on crop loans up to Rs one lakh are waived off. This rescheduling of loans makes farmers eligible for fresh loans. The government order issued on August 13, however, clearly stated that the scheme covers only institutional loans and not loans from non-institutional sources. Ravi also tried to get a loan from Telangana Scheduled Castes Cooperative Finance Corporation Ltd through the bank, but the policy is still under discussion. Managing Director of the corporation B Jayaraj says once the budget is passed in the Assembly, the government will decide the loan and subsidy ratio. Admitting a “few inherent deficiencies”, State Bank of Hyderabad General Manager J Sitapathy Sarma says, “Denial of loans to landless farmers is a major issue and needs a change of policy which will make them eligible even if they are unable to show collateral.” He, however, insists that farmers must make an effort to at least get a loan eligibility certificate from the village or mandal revenue officer. The State Bank of Hyderabad is the convener of the State-Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC). Meanwhile, in order to meet their 18 per cent target fixed for farm loans, banks classify all kinds of loans under the agriculture sector. For example, the SLBC said in July that banks in Telangana had given Rs 49,564 crore loans to the agriculture sector in 2013-14. But when the state government sought details of the accounts of individual farmers who were given loans, SLBC revised the figure to Rs 12,000 crore on March 31, 2014. Banks were apparently also bunching agricultural loans with those taken by farmers for jewellery, marriages, and other non-farm expenses. There are many examples of farmers taking loans for digging or repairing bore wells and paying children’s fees. When crops fail, all these add to their loan burden. “Thousands of farmers are caught in a vicious cycle of debts due to low yields or total crop failure. There is constant pressure from moneylenders and when it does not rain and crops start failing, all they can think of is escaping it by taking their own lives,” says activist Beera Ramulu. TRS politburo member and Karimnagar MP B Vinod Kumar admits the plight of landless farmers who take land on lease. “We need far-reaching reforms in the lending process to include landless farmers in the credit system. In 2010-11, banks introduced business correspondents in villages to make the process of giving loans easier but the correspondents recommend only those who have something to mortgage,” Kumar says. With no options, Ravi had borrowed money from relatives and other villagers at 24 per cent per annum. Documents show he took two loans at 18 per cent interest each, to pay Rs 50,000 upfront to take five acres on lease, and two loans at 24 per cent interest each. “The yield of the maize crop was not good due to inadequate rainfall. The paddy also failed,” says Ravi’s brother. Ravi’s wife Yadamma now works as farm labour, earning Rs 100 a day to support her sons Shiva and Sai. Rajaiah never thought of approaching a bank although three — Andhra Bank, State Bank of Hyderabad and UCO Bank — have branches in Husnabad, 25 km from his Thotapalli village. “We don’t own even a small piece of land, bank officials do not even look at your application. He did not get the loan eligibility card so there was no point going to the bank,” his wife Komaramma says. In 2011, the AP Government introduced a system of giving loan eligibility cards to tenant farmers. Village Revenue Officers, tehsildars, Mandal Revenue Officers could issue the card to a tenant farmer after ascertaining that farming is his only profession, is a genuine farmer, and has taken land on lease. In the presence of the village sarpanch and witnesses, a gram sabha is held and the farmer is given the eligibility card. “But revenue officials are wary of giving the eligibility cards fearing that they will be held accountable if the farmer fails to repay although the government order states that it is not the responsibility of government officials. When officials verify and find that the farmer has some outstanding loan already, they don’t issue the card. This way the system has slowly stopped working and very few cards are given,’’ says RTI activist and member of Rythu Swaraj Vedika Kondal Reddy. In Mallampalli village of Mulug Mandal in Warangal, Merugu Achala, 21, works up to eight hours in a cotton field for Rs 100-130 per day. Her husband killed himself recently over pressure from moneylenders after their cotton crop failed. Achala borrowed Rs 15,000 recently to pay the school fees of her daughter and son, in Class I and kindergarten respectively. The loan outstanding in her husband’s name is already around Rs 1 lakh, but Achala is determined to keep her children in a private school. “My husband did not want them to work in the fields and wished they got proper jobs when they grew up. I too don’t want them to ever work in agriculture,” she says. – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/in-telangana-caught-between-life-and-debt/4/#sthash.CXKQ5uO9.dpuf
List of Farmers Suicides in Telangana state since 2nd June, 2014
The eligible amount for debt waiver would be limited to the amount of loan (together with applicable interest), which is disbursed and outstanding as of 31st of March, 2014 or Rs.1,00,000 per farmer family whichever is lower. The farmer family is defined as head of the family, spouse and dependent children.
The following loans/accounts shall not be eligible under the Crop Loan Waiver Scheme.
a) Advances against pledge or hypothecation of agriculture produce other than standing crop
b) Tied loans
c) Closed crop loan accounts
Short term production loan means a loan given in connection with the raising of crops which is to be repaid within 18 months. It will include working capital loan, for traditional and non-traditional plantation and horticulture.
Implementation Guidelines of the Scheme
a) Preparation of list of farmers with outstanding crop loan dues and arriving at the amount of claim
i) Each lending institution – bank branch – which has disbursed short term crop loans to farmers shall prepare village-wise list of farmers with outstanding crop loan dues as on March 31, 2014 in the prescribed format (Annexure-A).
ii) Each lending institution, shall also prepare a village-wise list of farmers who have outstanding dues as on March 31, 2014 in respect of crop loans taken against gold in the prescribed format (Annexure-B).
iii) The list of farmers in Annexure-A and Annexure-B should be compared by the Bank Branch Manager and a final list of farmers who have outstanding crop loan and limited to a maximum extent of Rs.1.00 lakh should be prepared by the Bank Branch Manager in the format designed in Annexure-C. One copy of Annexure-A, B, C should be sent by the Bank Branch Manager each to LDM and District Collector.
iv) Some of the farmers might have taken crop loan/agriculture gold loan for crops from more than one bank branch of same bank or another bank. Hence, for eliminating the duplication/multiple financing and restricting the benefit of loan waiver of Rs.1.00 lakh per farmer family, a Bankers meeting at Mandal level will be convened by the JMLBC (Joint Mandal Level Bankers Committee) Convener. At the JMLBC meeting all the Banks will come with the lists of eligible farmers prepared in the proforma as in Annexure-A, B & C prescribed by the Government, and compare the list of farmers in Annexure- C with Annexure- C list of other bank branches in the mandal belonging to all the other banks (commercial, rural, cooperative). The mandal Tahsildar will also check all names in Annexure- C of all banks in the mandal and will verify if there are any fake pattadar pass books and also if all loanees have farm land. After this verification any false claims will be deleted. Then the farmer family who have availed loans from more than one bank branch will be identified by the JLMBC members. Their details will be recorded by the JLMBC in Annexure- D. The Co-op. Dept. auditors under the supervision of District Co-op. Audit Officer shall cross verify the A, B, C with D list pertaining to PACs and DCCBs. The DCAO shall allot the auditors to Mandals under his jurisdiction under intimation to the District Collector. A senior officer not below the rank of Deputy Collector and nominated by the District Collector will be the observer for this meeting. The Annexure-D thus prepared in JLMBC will be shared by all bank branches at the mandal level.
v) After comparing and deleting farmer family who have taken loan in more than one bank branch (Comparing Annexure C and D) each bank will prepare Annexure-E. It is to be noted that if a farmer family has multiple accounts but overall outstanding for crop loan is less than Rs.1.00 lakh, then their name will not be deleted. In case outstanding crop loan is more than Rs.1.00 lakh, then the name will be retained in the bank where the farmer family first availed the crop loan or where the outstanding amount is higher, the latter being the first priority. Annexure-E will be the final list of farmers bank branch wise who will be eligible for loan waiver.
vi) Annexure-E will be exhibited village wise and social audit conducted by a team consisting of MPDO, Tahsildar, AR (SDLCO)/Sl.& Branch Manager or his representative. After conduct of social audit and finalization of all objections received the final list of farmers bank branch wise will be prepared in Annexure-E (final). After the social audit and after taking into account the objections of villages, if any, a final village-wise list of eligible farmers along with the amount eligible for waiver shall be prepared Annexure ‘E’ and displayed at all bank branches after due authentication. The final list shall be sent to the LDM and the District Collector in Annexure-E.
vii) A District Level Bankers’ meeting will be convened (DCC) by the LDM and district details of loan waiver bank wise, farmer wise will be recorded and sent to SLBC in Annexure-E. SLBC will intimate Bank wise, Branch wise farmers eligible amounts to be released to the Government in Annexure-E.
b) Claim reimbursement by the Government to the lending institutions
i) The final list shall be consolidated village-wise and district- wise by convening a meeting of the District Level Bankers’ Committee. After consolidating all such lists from the districts, the banks would need to raise a claim with the Government, which would be reimbursed to the banks.
ii) After adjustment of loan waiver amount by the State Government, each branch shall certify the amount of outstanding crop loans waived after duly crediting the amounts in the crop loan accounts of farmers. Before crediting the amount, an undertaking should be taken from the farmer in that he shall repay the amount of waiver if it is found subsequently that he/she has fraudulently obtained the crop loan or is found not eligible for crop loan waiver under the Scheme. A certificate of loan waiver in Annexure ‘F’ shall also be issued by the bank branch to each farmer, whose outstanding loan has been waived. The amount of loan waiver shall be consolidated bank-wise for the entire State.
iii) A meeting of the JMLBC shall be convened within one month of the completion of procedures laid down in i) and ii) above.
After the completion of procedures in i) and ii) above, the auditors of the Cooperation Department shall take up the audit of Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies to ensure accuracy of the waiver amounts and shall submit the audit report to the Chief Auditor. The books of accounts of every lending institution that has granted crop loan waiver shall be subject to an audit in accordance with the usual procedure prescribed by RBI / NABARD. The audit may be conducted by concurrent auditors, statutory auditors or special auditors.
Obligations of lending institutions
Every lending institution shall be responsible for the correctness and integrity of the list of farmers eligible under the scheme and the particulars of crop loan waiver in respect of each farmer. Every document maintained, every list prepared and ever certificate issued by a lending institution for the purpose of the scheme shall bear the signature of an authorised officer of the lending institution.
Monitoring and Grievance Redressal
There will also be a suitable monitoring and grievance redressal mechanism established at Mandal, District and State levels and every representation has to be disposed off within 30 days. Detailed orders in this regard would be issued separately.
Fresh Lending and agriculture campaign
Since the eligibility for loan waiver is decided based on the outstanding crop loan as on March 31, 2014, along with the interest on it computed up to the date of implementation to be notified by the State Government, and the liability will be taken over by the State Government. All the bankers should commence fresh lending of crop loans immediately. For clarity, it is reiterated that the eligible loan amount as computed by following the prescribed procedure shall be reimbursed irrespective of its renewal subsequent to 31-03-2014.
(BY ORDER AND IN THE NAME OF THE GOVERNOR OF TELANGANA)
APC & PRINCIPAL SECRETARY TO GOVERNMENT.
The Commissioner & Director of Agriculture,
Government of Telangana, Hyderabad.
The Principal Secretary to Chief Minister.
The P.S. to Hon’ble Minister (Agri & A.H.)
The P.S. to Chief Secretary.
The Finance (EAC) Department.
The Accountant General, Telangana, Hyderabad.
The Pay and Accounts Officer, Telangana, Hyderabad.
Farmer Suicides in Telangana State since 2nd June, 2014 #AgrarianCrisis
|18||Padige Devaiah||12.06.14||58||M||Chinna Bohela||Sirisilla||Karimnagar|
|26||KRISHNA||18/6/14||28||M||GATLA GANAPUR||PEDDA MANDADI||Mahboobnagar|
|27||GODA RAMA SWAMY||19/6/14||46||M||JEELUGUPALLI||LINGALA||Mahboobnagar|
|33||Doddi Pushpa||05.07.14||30||F||Chetla Narsampalli||Doulathabad||Medak|
|39||Gaddam Vamseedhar Reddy||14.06.14||26||M||Chandupur||Chinnakodur||Medak|
|41||Gadige Vittalgoud||22.06.14||55||M||Bageeradha pally||ChinnasankaramPeta||Medak|
|44||R. Ashok Reddy||02.06.14||42||M||EllaReddy Peta||Thogutta||Medak|
|53||Boppanapally Rajaiah||09.06.14||45||M||Velmaneni gudem||Gurrampadu||Nallagonda|
|68||RACHAKONDA SHANKAR||26-07-2014||25||M||chervu annaram||kattangur||Nallagonda|
|70||KESANI.ADI REDDY||26-07-2014||45||M||gopavari gudem||NIDAMANURU||Nallagonda|
|76||Yetham Ilaiah||07.06.14||30||M||Kondapur||Station Ghanapur||Warangal|
|84||Samala Ramaswamy||26.06.14||60||M||Jawahar Nagar||Venkatapur||Warangal|
It’s time we acknowledged ecological impoverishment as one of the poverty indicators
Source: Prashant Ravi
On the face of it, the release of India’s latest poverty estimate and the decision to create the 29th state, Telengana, seem to be two unrelated developments. The media and public dialogues also, though hyper on both developments, did not see any link between the two. The discussion over poverty mostly revolved around what one can buy with Rs 28/day decided as poverty line figure for rural areas. As far as Telengana is concerned, the focus was on how prominent the demand for small states has become. And, of course, some talk about how small states aid development. Ecological poverty, however, failed to find any mention in these discussions. This is how the debate on governance issues in India consistently fails to acknowledge the centrality of ecology.
To join the dots, most of the demands for new states come from areas that are rich in natural resources but high on poverty index. Of the 20 areas demanding state-status from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, 15 have distinct socio-economic profiles. These areas predominantly depend on natural resources for sustenance. Or, one can say, they are biomass-based economies. Unlike immediately after Independence, now the demands for a separate state are not entirely based on linguistic or ethnic identities. Invariably, poor regions inside a state tend to demand separate administrative units, which could either be a separate state or a new district. Such regions, for years, have been citing regional development disparity as the main reason for their demand for a separate identity. It is a way of redrawing India’s ecological map—resource-rich areas do not want their assets to be used as raw materials for development elsewhere. But does having a separate state guarantee better access to local resources for communities? This is an important question because in such areas most of the poor depend on resources like forests and farms for survival.
Now, let’s look at the three small states created in 2001, when India last created new states after sustained demands. All the three—Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand—are rich in forest, water and land resources. Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are suitable for analysing of whether new identities helped in better access to natural resources. This is because in both the states local ecology has been the economy of the impoverished and the two states together account for a significant proportion of India’s poor population. How have they performed in poverty alleviation as separate states?
The latest poverty estimate shows that despite a sharp drop in poverty, both the states have nearly double the poverty level of national average. Segregated data shows that tribal, forested and other mineral-rich districts contribute up to 70 per cent of the two states’ total poor. Chhattisgarh emerges as the country’s poorest state with around 40 per cent people below the poverty line. This is the same level of poverty that was reported before 2001 when the new states were created. This despite the fact that the state’s economic growth has been more than the national average. However, this is a pan Indian trend—states are reporting high economic growth but not a proportionate decline in poverty levels.
This brings into debate the ecological nature of India’s poverty. Current debates focus on impoverishment entirely as income poverty. Poverty in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand or, for that matter, rural poverty in general, is ecological since poor depend on the environment for survival. According to various income surveys, close to 70 per cent earning of a poor person comes from ecological sources. In forested areas, forest products contribute 80 per cent of the local people’s income.
With the creation of new states in 2001, India had its first brush with ecological states. Many hoped that control over natural and ecological resources would help redefine the state of poverty in these states. Everybody believed that the new states would, at least, frame policies that reflect the ecological reality. In an anti-climax, both the states first declared industry policy to exploit the vast mineral resources and sold land at cheap rates as a bonus. This reflects in the current state of affairs in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Just like before their formation, there is a sharp division within the new states: two warring groups are fighting over resources. The same old model of development continues. Naturally, the residents of resource-rich areas feel further marginalised. No surprise they continue to be poor.
This is where those euphoric over Telengana need to pause and review the past experiences. The debate over poverty line must get real and accept ecological poverty as the real poverty indicator.