Hyderabad: Though a lot of planning was involved ahead of Rythu Bandhu rollout, several issues needed to be addressed to realise Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s overall plan for promoting sustainable farming and restoring faith of the individual in himself and bringing the farming community together.
“There was a time when a farmer in distress had friends. The others in the village would stand by and give him courage. This rural fabric got destroyed over the years,” Prof Jayashankar Telangana State Agriculture University Vice-Chancellor Dr V Praveen Rao told Telangana Today in an exclusive interview.
The solution to overcome this sense of abandonment came in the form of Rythu Samanvaya Samithi. The samithis would have their own halls where farmers could meet regularly to share their experiences, plan for the future and find ways together to face current challenges. “We also had to work a lot on figuring out just how many agriculture extension officers (AEOs) were needed. We studied various models from across the world and decided to come up with our own – of one AEO for every 5,000 acres based on the number of farmers an officer can meet in a day, the number of villages he may have to cover and the demonstrations he can conduct,” Praveen Rao said.
Meanwhile, the Marketing Department was busy creating much-needed additional godown space. This was required to ensure adequate storage for seeds and fertilizers that are the primary inputs for starting farming operations. Within four years, the State government-owned godown space went from some 4,000 tonnes to 22.5 tonnes. It is not an empty claim by the government of farmers no longer forming long queues for days to buy seed and fertilizer. What the new godowns meant was that the State could order for the fertilizer it needed for the upcoming crop seasons well in advance.
Normally, orders were placed in June-August, just when fertilizer companies are at their busiest shipping orders across the country. Now, Telangana places it orders much earlier, and since the railways too are stretched by demands from other States for similar service, this meant smooth transfer and advanced availability of fertilizer as well as seed in the State. This in turn, has meant easier times for farmers in getting these supplies, when they want.
One of the big questions that needed to be addressed as the scheme’s nitty gritty was being worked out, was just whom to include in it. “Sure, it was meant for the 51,76,874 farmers of the total 57,24,115 land-owning farmers falling in the marginal and small categories with land holdings of less than five acres. But leaving out others who owned more land meant possible and avoidable corruption among officials and unwelcome pressure from politicians to include such persons in the scheme. Thus, it was decided to include all farmers irrespective of land holdings, with those owning more than 5 acres comprising a small slice of Telangana’s farming community,” he said.
Once this decision was taken, the challenge that remained was to determine just how much land each farmer owned and thus came about the land purification exercise and the design of the simplified pattadar passbooks with accurate land ownership details. Elsewhere, Mission Kakatiya was doing its job of improving ground water availability while the use of nutrient rich silt from the tanks was bringing down the cost of cultivation with decreasing fertilizer use. Since the plants were healthier, it also meant less reliance on pesticide usage.
“If we manage to continue for the next three or four years what we have been doing for the past couple of years, farmers in Telangana will rewrite the books on how to make agriculture a really profitable occupation,” Praveen Rao said.