The Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday announced several measures for alleviating the problems of the farmers.
The measures coincide with the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the state.
In his address soon after being sworn in as chief minister on May 14, Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy made announcements to fulfill the party’s poll promises to the farming community.
The sops included free power supply to farmers at an annual cost of Rs 436 crore to the exchequer, one-time waiver of electricity arrears of farmers amounting to Rs 1,192 crore, extension of interest waiver of Rs 108 crore on short-term and long-term crop loans and grant of pledge loans of Rs 5 crore for chilly growers.
These measures were aimed at mitigating the financial problems of farmers who had lost heavily due to successive crop failures owing to persistent drought over the last few years.
The free power supply was intended to bring down the cost of inputs for the farmers by offering them 100 per cent subsidised power.
The new government also came out with a relief package for the families of farmers who committed suicide on or after July 1, 1998, the six-year period that coincided with the previous government’s tenure.
Ex-gratia compensation of Rs 100,000 and a one-time debt clearance upto Rs 50,000 would be provided to hapless families of suicide victims to give them succour and the ability to stand up on their own feet. Schooling, housing and pensions for their family members would also be provided.
Verification and certification committees have been constituted to look into all cases of farmers’ suicides since July 1, 1998. Toll-free helplines have been started in the district collectorates to respond to distress calls from farmers who are in debts.
A Cabinet subcommittee, comprising four key ministers, has been set up to go into the issue of farmers’ suicides and oversee the implementation of relief package launched to pull affected families out of deep distress.
All-party meetings were convened at district and mandal levels to discuss the issue and create awareness among ryots about the relief package. The government also instructed the officials at village level to take up debt enumeration of each farmer and counsel potential victims not to lose heart.
Cooperative and commercial banks have been asked not to invoke AP Revenue Recovery Act that authorises attachment of movable and immovable properties of defaulters.
Revenue division committees, consisting of revenue divisional officer, sub-divisional police officer and assistant director (agriculture), have been constituted to look into each case of farmers’ suicide.
Mandal-level committees comprising mandal revenue officer and sub-inspector of police have also been set up to examine the SOS calls received by the helplines.
A Task Force has been constituted to look into the issue of rural indebtedness and find speedy solutions to the problems of the debt-ridden farmers.
To provide immediate relief to the farmers in distress, the government has enacted the AP Farmers Agricultural Debts (Moratorium) Act, providing for moratorium for a period of six months for all the debts taken by the farmers from private moneylenders in the state.
The government has also initiated a dialogue with insurance companies for providing comprehensive medical insurance to the farmers besides covering the risk of failure of agricultural borewells, with a view to creating an environment of security. The government promised to work out a comprehensive crop insurance package, which would take care of the existing shortfalls.
To provide credit to more number of eligible and non-loanee farmers, the state level bankers committee has stepped up the target for crop loans for 2004-05 by 42 per cent to Rs 11,205 crore as against the disbursement of Rs 7,903 crore in 2003-04.
Under agricultural term loans, the target has been raised by 147 percent to Rs 1,814 crore in 2004-05 as against the disbursement of Rs 733 crore in 2003-04.
By Syed Amin Jafri