No Country for farmers

Credit

Geeta is 45 years old, but she can recollect how her parents were forced out to the peripheries of the forest when she was a child. She belongs to Jenu Kuruba tribe and lives in a small haadi (hamlet) called Sirgudhadi of HD Kote.

She says, “There were around 25 families and each one was given 3 acres to cultivate. But now we have grown in number and this is not sufficient for the family of 18 members.”

These tribal people along with rehabilitated farmers from the Kabini Dam area who were resettled in different villages such as Malali and N. Belathur cannot apply for agricultural loans as they do not own the land. Apparently, these people cannot claim any legal rights on the cultivated land. Same is the story of Madhappa, a tribal from Maldahadi, who has no legal authority on his ancestral acreage. They have been orphaned from their land after the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972.

These unclassified laws in HD Kote villages have left farmers with no other choice than taking loans from moneylenders, traders or any other source for farming. The banks do not provide credit to farmers without legal land holdings. In the recent years, banking sector’s role in providing agricultural loans has decreased. The decline is due to several reasons such as crop failures, inadequate rainfall and inability of farmers to repay loans. In such cases, recovery of loan becomes difficult for the banks. This has forced banks to rephrase their loan and interest structures.

According to the bank manager Yeduraj, “We provide subsidies and allied agricultural purpose loans (sheep rearing, goat rearing, diary etc.) to all the farmers with or without land acquisition.”

Banks verify land mutation status from Record of Rights, Tenants and Crops (RTC) office where they get all the details to decide whether the land is on lease or not. Nevertheless, Kaveri Gramin Bank is a big caterer to the recognized and stable self-help groups (mixed groups).

Irrigation in this area is either based on monsoon in the case of traditional crops and borewells for cash crops. Usually, farmers prefer mixed crops for good income. The main crops grown in this area are jowar, ragi, paddy, sugarcane, vegetables, turmeric, cotton, corn, tobacco, banana, and coconut.

Many farmers who grow cash crops have borewells in their farm. But caste dominates the hierarchy here as well as there are people hailing from lower castes who still struggle to get a borewell dug. A borewell installation requires a huge amount of money which sums up to approximately Rs 200,000. This makes borewell quite unaffordable for marginal or small scale farmers who make a meager profit of around Rs 20,000 yearly. So, they rely on banks or government schemes such as Ganga Kalyan Yojana started for scheduled caste and tribes. But due to the inefficiencies and rampant corruption prevalent in the administration, the benefits hardly reach the needy.

Nagaiiah, a farmer from Malali village says, “Seventy five percent of beneficiaries of Ganga Kalyan Yojana are fake. Only 25 percent farmers are benefited who belong to SC/ST. This means 6-7 people get bore wells among our community.”

He is still struggling to get a clearance from the bank manager for his sanctioned loan. He has to resort to bribing the officials, other political authorities and zilla panchayat members for loan clearance, as well as borewell installation.

But the story of their hardship does not end even after sanctioning of the loan. The Kaveri Gramin Bank which is said to be owned by central government and is part of NABARD (National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development) does not provide bore well loans easily. The first installment is given after the digging is complete and the farmer is able to produce a yielding certificate from a geologist. Second installment is approbated after installation of submersible pumps and motor and the last payment is made when the electricity connection to the farm is complete.

Submersible pump connection
Submersible pump connection

All these hardships might be the biggest reason for farmers to shift to other jobs or migrate to urban cities in search for a better life.

Direct financing for agricultural development is not prevalent anymore. As a result distress migration at a large scale is taking place according to the 2011 census. Most of the marginal farmers and agricultural laborers depend on National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) as the second source of income.  But this biggest financial scheme is laden with corruption charges.

According to SIRD (State Institute of Rural Development), Mysore Director P. Shiva Shankar, “Several times, the failure lies in the implementation of such schemes. Usually the contractor teams up with the job card holders and gives them only half of the amount and manages to get the correct paperwork. So the needy are never able to get any sort of help from the government.”

Inputs

Most of the farmers buy seeds for cultivation and fertilizers for the crop from private distributers. What is the reason behind this proclivity towards private suppliers instead of government subsidies? Is it the quality of seeds which differ, as farmers are more likely to go for high yielding seeds? Or is it the government’s inability to provide agricultural products to the farmers.

Subsidies given in 2014-2015 on various agriculture products

Products General ST SC Total
Tarpaulin 90 26 20 136
Sprayer 125 10 20 155
Seeds 145 ton 145 ton
Plough 50 50
Pesticides 190 litres 50% subsidy for all
Sprinklers 57 57

Organic fertilizers with 50% subsidy for all

Vermi compost 29 ton
Zinc Sulphate 1500 kg
Gypsum 132 kg
Borax 1500 kg
City Compost 10 ton
PSB 1620 kg

The hobli agricultural department in Antarsante village presented a different picture altogether. The government has subsidies even for organic  farming but there are hardly 1,500 farmers who are involved in organic cultivation. Whatever limited number of farmers who do organic farming are the result of initiatives taken by different NGOs. These organisations ensure to collect the crops from the farmers at the right market price thereby building trust among the deprived sector. Whereas, the role of government sector seems negligent in these areas.

Moreover, government’s role in encouraging organic farming seems slack. They have limited number of stocks to give to the farmers. As  under one hobli, there are six graam panchayats, 36 revenue villages and many small hadies (hamlets). This data is an example of  lackadaisical functioning of the government.

List of schemes under which subsidies are given to the farmers by agriculture department
List of schemes under which subsidies are given to the farmers by agriculture department

Out of all these the officials could produce only half data of the beneficiaries. The paper work was incomplete. In spite of all these facts, on being questioned, the assistant agricultural officer kept insisting that the rest of the products are distributed under different schemes. It is rather hard to believe as the schemes such as soil testing which requires soil to be tested and aftermath training of the farmers for the fertilizer usage wasn’t done according to the villagers. As per the official statement last year in April, soil was tested by the only technician in the department and 240 samples were collected. But they are still waiting for the results.

 

Out of 155 benefiaries of Sprayers only 50 were registered
Out of 155 benefiaries of Sprayers only 50 were registered
The list of beneficiaries of Sprayers
The list of beneficiaries of Sprayers

Whereas, farmers denied the fact entirely that there land was ever examined by a government official. Meanwhile, director of Coorg Organisation for Rural Development (CORD) Roy David pointed out that government has programmes to test the soil and tell which pesticides to be used. But they do not tell the farmers what the present health of the soil is.

According to the government officials, they have their own problems. There are twelve facilitators and one technician in the hobli office.  It is rather difficult for them to manage things or run various schemes with such a limited number of staff. The main issue is lack of communication with the locals.

Moreover, they do not provide any compensation to the farmers if their crops are destroyed by the animals. According to the Panchayat Development Officer Santosh K of the gram panchayat N. Belathur, “Every year around 30 to 40 percent crops were destroyed by animals.”  According to agricultural officials, forest department owes whole responsibility in such cases. Still the main sufferers are the farmers, who get only Rs. 500 for each acre from forest department in case of destruction by elephants, deer, wild boars, bison etc. Often this amount is delayed by a year or so.

 Marketing

In HD Kote, 45 villages out of 48 come under ecologically sensitive areas. This means curbing down the number of vehicles in these areas. It is one of the main reasons for farmers’ dependence on private mediators. Most of the farmers find it difficult to transport their crops to the main market. Naturally the traders manipulate farmers easily owing to their disadvantage. Farmers do not have any direct access to the market that means demand is created by the mediators themselves. It depends on middlemen whether to create demand or not. That is how they get commission of Rs 2000 to 3000 per quintal from the clueless farmers.

 Ragi
Ragi

Many a time, traders criticise their crop and pay them low price. For example, sugarcane prices are based on quality. But there are no specified standards of measuring the quality of the crop. In such cases famers get exploited more often and to a larger extent. The other reason for relying on these traders is the problem of storage. Apart from the big ones, majority of the farmers whether marginal or small scale live in small houses, mainly huts. It is rather impossible for them to store crops. This again triggers the need to sell the crops as soon as possible to the mediators.

According to the farmers, in most of the instances, they get cheated while weighing. Madhappa  a villager from Maldahadi said, “Often the weighing scales are faulty. They take 6 to 7 kilograms extra per quintal. That is why farmers have started demanding usage of electrical weighing machine.”

Government procurement operation doesn’t work well and thus farmers entirely depend on private traders. Small scale farmers and tribal people who have land only for cultivation often take loans from traders. That is how hypothecation of crops takes place, as they are supposed to sell their crops to these farmers itself on whatever price they decide to give.

Agricultural laborers cultivating land
Agricultural laborers cultivating land
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