VIJAYAWADA: Quite a number of farmers in the Amaravati capital region who gave up their land under the Land Pooling Scheme (LPS) are now regretting their decision. As they discover the fine print of the deal, they are finding that they hadn't reckoned with costs that would apply to them once they move from an agricultural milieu to a semi-urban one.
For one thing, the handsome income they earned from agriculture was not taxable. And now, any gains they make from sale of the compensatory plots given to them in lieu of their land is taxable. And if they choose not to build anything on their plots, they would still cop the vacant land tax.
"In hindsight, I think I made a mistake," said A Sivaramakrishnaiah, a farmer of Mandadam, a village that will be consumed when the capital comes up. "Agriculture was the only source of income for me and my family. Today, I don't have any income from my land, and I have not been paid the annuity promised to all LPS contributors." Sivaramakrishnaiah gave up six acres of wet land in the floodbanks of the Krishna, probably the most fertile land in all of Andhra Pradesh.
In the real estate market of Amaravati, it would, notionally, fetch Rs 3 crore per acre. Sitting at a tea kiosk at a time of the year when he and fellow farmers would have been busy sowing for the rabi season, he says, "I was a pioneer in this region in the use of micro irrigation for horticulture. I used to adopt farming innovations decades ago. I used to make Rs 3 lakh per acre onan average per year."
Sivaramakrishnaiah still thinks of himself as a farmer. But he also knows that once he accepts his compensatory plot documents, he will cease to be one. He is bitter about the loss of identity and even more bitter that he would have to pay income tax. And the deal itself has turned sour for him.
"The value of the plot they are giving me as compensation is in no way equal to the land I gave up," he says. All the talk of the capital coming up led to an overheating of the real estate scene in Amaravati, and values are so high, no one is buying.
Farmers like Sivaramakrishnaiah have been left with hot realty in a bear market, and future appreciation of value is notional, and can only be realized when the grand capital does really get built, which is not going to happen any time soon.
"I can sell only after there is some development. What sort of development will happen here, no one knows. It might take years and I'll have to pay vacant land tax all the time, and I have no income," Sivaramakrsihnaiah says.
Several farmers approached the state government to waive taxes on any transactions they make on the plots given to them. But that's for the central government to do, so the state government had nothing to say about it.
Now the farmers are pleading for a waiver of the registration fee for the first transaction on their plots or maintain the same registration value as was applicable to agriculture land.