For the past year, Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao has been focusing on consolidating his support among farmers in the state. After consecutive years of drought, 2017 was a better year for the state’s 70 lakh-odd farmers. Still, pockets of distress—rainfall deficits, demonetisation, spurious seeds—remained. Farmers in Khammam allegedly vandalised the town’s market yard after prices for chilli dropped. Outrage was triggered after the accused farmers were taken to court in chains. Farmers’ associations and opposition parties staged protests.
There was anger against the government. Close to a year later, things may be different. KCR, as he is known, has since announced key initiatives that have the potential of easing agricultural distress. Telangana had gone from being power deficit (at time of formation) to surplus; the benefits have been passed on to farmers from this year with 24/7 free electricity made available. Further, KCR assured the release of `8,000 per acre per farmer in a year in the form of a fertiliser subsidy. Recently, he announced a `5 lakh insurance cover for all farmers.
These come close to a year before the state goes to polls, and can be read as efforts to curry favour with farmers. And indeed some of KCR’s moves have been overtly political and have come in for close scrutiny from the Opposition. He announced the formation of district farmers’ coordination committees, members of which will be nominated. Opposition parties have accused the government of diluting the powers of gram panchayats through this move.
Recently, KCR announced the formation of a state corporation to coordinate with these committees. This may bridge the information deficit between farmers and the state. Still, the fact is that the government’s efforts may reduce some of the burden faced by the state’s farming community, a majority of whom are marginal farmers. It would be beneficial if the government extended the `8,000 per acre subsidy to tenant farmers as well.