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Farmer associations decry Telangana Govt’s expansion of cotton cultivation

Farmer associations decry Telangana Govt’s expansion of cotton cultivation

A meeting of Farmer organizations of Telangana was organized at Hyderabad in response to recent policy announcements by Telangana state government and the Centre. The meeting was called by Rythu Swarajya Vedika and hosted at Prof.Jayashankar Human Resource Development Centre at TJS office in Nampally. The participants included Sarampalli Malla Reddy of All India Kisan Sabha, Prof.Kodandaram of TJS, Kanneganti Ravi, Vissa Kirankumar and B.Kondal of Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Dr. G.V.Ramanjaneyulu of Cente for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), P. Shankar of Dalit Bahujan Front, T.Sagar of Telangana Rythu Sangham, Achutha Ramarao of All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, Srisail Reddy of TJS farmer union, and other farmer union representatives.

The farmer organizations strongly opposed the unilateral announcement by TS government that the government will decide which crops should be grown in which areas and that farmers will receive Rythu Bandhu support only if they grow these crops. They demanded that the government should hold first come up with a comprehensive Agriculture policy through extensive consultation with farmer organizations and experts. The appropriate cropping pattern and how to incentivize it should be part of such a broader plan, not a knee-jerk announcement dictating 3 or 4 crops. The organizations also took a critical stance on the Stimulus package and new economic policies announced recently by Central government policies and described them as anti-farmer.

 “The announcement by the Chief Minister declaring cropping areas of 70 lakh acres of cotton, 40 lakh acres of paddy, 15 lakh acres of red gram and a few zones for turmeric and vegetables, and making Rythu Bandhu support contingent on growing government-dictated crops is a unilateral and short-sighted move. Rythu Swarajya Vedika always advocated a rational and sustainable crop planning with farmers’ involvement, but not a short-sighted plan imposed by government promoting mono-cropping of a few crops. The current cotton cultivation area of 55 lakh acres is already unsustainable, resulting in a hundreds of cotton farmer suicides every year. Expanding it to 70 lakh acres is irresponsible and will be a disaster,” said Ravi Kanneganti of Rythu Swarajya Vedika.

Sarampalli Malla Reddy, Vice President of All India Kisan Sabha said, “The government should first ensure all support systems for farmer including Minimum Support Prices, procurement and marketing facilities, timely crop loans, crop insurance and disaster compensation. Tenant farmers and tribal farmers should be given Rythu Bandhu support. Instead of doing this, if government forces farmers to cultivate particular crops, who will take responsibility if the crops fail or if they don’t get good price in the market?”

 Dr.G.V.Ramanjaneyulu, eminent agricultural scientist from Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) said, “This decision by Telangana government took everyone by surprise, because those of us who were consulted by the government as experts clearly recommended reducing the cultivation area of cotton and paddy. Based on soil type, soil depth and water availability, only about 25 lakh acres in the state is very suitable for cotton cultivation. Instead of reducing the cotton cultivation to the suitable areas, it is unscientific to further expand its cultivation. There are many other crops which need to be encouraged in Telangana including pulses and oilseeds. Most of the vegetable requirements of people in Telangana are being met from other states. We need to expand the vegetable cultivation from 2 lakh acres to 10 lakh acres. Similarly, fine varieties of paddy don’t give good yield in rabi and are susceptible to pests but government is trying to dictate that only fine, long grain varieties should be grown and not the short-grain varieties.”

Speaking of the stimulus package and policies announced by the Central government, Kirankumar Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika and national working group of AIKSCC said, “The so-called 20 lakh crore stimulus package by the Centre doesn’t have any measure for farmers. Farmers suffered major losses due to the lockdown because they couldn’t sell their crops, got very low prices and vegetable farmers couldn’t even harvest the crop. NREGS workers lost majority of work days during this peak period of work from March to May. We demanded Rs.10,000 per household as compensation to farmers and NREGS workers – which would have enabled them to recover and prepare for sowing in the new Kharif season. Instead of supporting the livelihoods of common people, the Centre, in the garb of the stimulus is pushing for privatization and corporate domination in a big way. The push for removal of APMC regulation, privatization of mandis and allowing companies to hoard large amounts of grains, will benefit only the Adanis and Ambanis but will damage the interests of the farmers.”

Prof. Kodandaram of Telangana Jana Samiti said, “It is clear that the unilateral decisions of the Telangana government will harm the farmers. Changing the cropping pattern takes a whole generation to work hard and take risk in the field, and cannot happen because of decisions in AC halls in Hyderabad. We have been demanding a comprehensive Agriculture Policy for the past 4 years but the government didn’t come out with it. Now, it is time to take these issues to the farmers and let them decide whether the new policies are beneficial to them.” 

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