No crops and rising debt: Rayalaseema farmers headed for another year of drought

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With temperatures rising, and reservoirs in the state gradually drying up, many farmers in Rayalseema region are left with no choice, but to give up their belongings.

According to reports, farmers in Anantapur started selling their cattle to slaughter houses this week, as they were unable to feed them.

This ground reality also reflected in a recent report, which suggested that only 19.5 lakh hectares, against the targeted 27.26 lakh hectares, was under cultivation in the state, during Rabi season.

The Rayalaseema region consists of four districts – Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor, all drought prone areas.

This week, a fact finding committee from the Rythu Swarajya Vedika visited several mandals in the Rayalaseema region, and released their findings.

The findings claimed that 25 farmers killed themselves in just the first two months of 2017 in Andhra, the primary reason being debt.

Speaking to TNM, Kondal Reddy, a member of the committee said, “We have met several families and they all mostly share the same issues. Their crops aren’t growing, their loans are increasing, and they have no money.”

When asked about the Rayalaseema area, Kondal says, “Especially in the Kurnool-Kadapa belt, we saw that a lot of crops that were planted, did not grow. Even if they did, the farmers did not get a fair rate for those crops, and their debt becomes a never-ending cycle, which only increases over time.”

Tenant farmers

The committee also found that 70% of the farmers who committed suicide were tenant farmers, which meant that they had the additional burden of paying rent, besides the loans.

The report also said that most tenant farmers in the state are yet to receive their Loan Eligibility Cards (LEC), despite an act that was passed in the AP Assembly in 2011.

The LEC would give the farmers access to 0% interest crop loans from banks, crop insurance and several other agricultural subsidies.

Many farmers stated that they were unaware about the importance of the LEC, while others told activists that they had to secure several permissions, including one from land owners, before they could avail the card.

Activists say that the state has done very little to help such farmers, as they struggle to even break even. Even the Minimum Support Price has not been implemented properly.

Several years of neglect and mass migration

In November last year, after the Kharif season, the state government declared 245 mandals, drought hit.

Of these, 63 were from Anantapur, followed by 53 in Chittoor, 36 in Kurnool and 32 in Kadapa.

The state said that it received only 533.8 mm of rainfall, against the normal 556 mm between June 1 and September 30.

In April last year, 357 mandals in the state were declared drought-hit, most of which were from the four district.

2015 was no better, as Chittoor and Kadapa received heavier rainfall than expected, while Anantapur and Kurnool were bone dry. This left crops either inundated, or withering.

Tired of being unable to grow crops, several thousand people from the region have begun migrating every year to the neighboring states of Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

Mostly travelling to Kerala due to higher wages, these men and women take up daily wage jobs and can’t even afford a roof over their head at night. Many sleep on footpaths and on the streets.

This year, the migration has already begun, with many travelling to areas like Kochi, and lining up every morning at various junctions in the city.

Many of the migrants stated that they didn’t have food, or even drinking water in their borewells back home, while others said that they were trying to earn money to fund their children’s education.

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