The fourteen-day Raitulatho Mukhamukhi (Direct Interaction with Farmers), a yatra undertaken by CLP leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka covering vast tracts of Telangana to spread awareness about the Centre's "black agrarian laws" among the state's farming community, came to a close today.
The yatra has reportedly been very well-received by farmers everywhere. Scores of farmers met Vikramarka at every village he crossed, and articulated their anger against the three farm bills brought in by the Centre, claiming that the legislations would only benefit the rich.
On his part, the leader, who travelled from Adilabad to Khammam during the yatra, lent a patient ear to the farmers who spoke to him about their problems.
Speaking about his interactions, the leader reportedly said, "Telangana's farmers have spoken in unison against the farm laws. They have made clear their belief that the new legislations will only make them subservient to various big agri-corporates. They told me that even before the implementation of such unjust laws, they never received the correct MSP for their produce at the state's procurement centres, and expressed their fears about what would happen after the laws came into force - they fear the new Acts will dismantle the MSP system altogether."
The farmers also voiced their displeasure with the treatment being meted out to them by the Centre and the state government. The excerpts from a few reported interactions are listed below:
1) Ashok, a farmer from Bheemsari village in Adilabad, said that both the state and union governments had been dragging their feet over the payment of the premiums of the Fasal Bima (crop insurance) by asking each other to do the needful.
2) Another farmer wondered how the governments expected marginal farmers to transport their yield to markets offering the "optimal" price for produce after shutting down the procurement centres.
3) Vikramarka claimed that the farmers also urged him to impress upon the state government the urgent need to continue the input subsidy scheme for farmers alongside its Rythu Bandhu scheme.
They pointed out that the TRS government had discontinued the Pavala Vaddi loan, and the distribution of input subsidies after the launch of the Rythu Bandhu scheme.
One farmer complained, "The government thinks that Rythu Bandhu measures will solve all our problems. What happened to the Rs 1 lakh loan waiver that we were promised? None of our problems have been meaningfully addressed. None of the pre-Rythu Bandhu programs are also being implemented anymore."
4) Bhim Reddy and Sanjiv Reddy, farmers from Deepaiguda, said, "The TRS government has always claimed that it will purchase every single grain right from our doorsteps. Suddenly, why is it asking us to transport our crops to other markets, using the Centre's laws as an excuse? Does it not realise that this will push up the cost of production, which will then surpass the MSP? The support prices fail to cover the real costs of production anyway."
5) Raising the issue of the burgeoning agrarian crisis in the state, leaders of the Rythu Swarajya Vedika told the CLP leader that 262 farmers in Adilabad had committed suicide since 2014, and assailed the TRS government for "failing" to provide the victims' families with ex-gratia aid.
6) The mood was no different in another district in North Telangana - thousands of farmers from Karimnagar met the senior Congress leader and registered their protest against the new laws.
Shankar of Eklaspur said that both the Centre and the state government were "cheating" the farming community in the state and the country.
"Both regimes are cheating the agrarian section even though we form 80% of the Indian population. Who will protect us from corporate exploitation once the state-run purchasing centres are removed? There will be no MSP to provide us with a buffer either," he said.
The yatra, which began on February 9th from Bheemsari of Adilabad district, culminated at Konijarla in Khammam district today.
As the march comes to a close, one is left wondering how this can of worms, knocked over by the CLP leader's yatra, will affect the electoral prospects of the BJP and the TRS in the upcoming MLC elections in the Khammam-Warangal-Nalgonda and Hyderabad-Rangareddy-Mahabubnagar graduates' constituencies.
One also wonders whether the Congress bigwigs in the state were more accepting of Vikramarka's march than they were of Revanth Reddy's recently-concluded Rajiv Rythu Bharosa Yatra