Cultivator cards elude tenant farmers despite legal provisions

Absentee landlords walk away with all the benefits under various agri schemes, says the report

Absentee landlords walk away with all the benefits under various agri schemes, says the report

The bountiful rain at the beginning of the kharif season may have warmed the hearts of the farmers across the State but uncertainty stares at tenant farmers, known as crop cultivators or “Koulu Raithulu.”

There are an estimated 24.25 lakh tenant farmers, of whom, 6.29 lakh are landless tenants and 18.03 lakh are mixed tenants (Radhakrishna Commission, 2014).

Farming in many parts of Krishna and Godavari deltas is done by tenant farmers after taking lease of lands and as fate would have it, they are at the receiving end.

Even as the agricultural operations are in full swing, most tenant farmers have not received the Crop Cultivators Rights Cards (CCRC).

Soon after coming into power in 2019, the Jagan Mohan Reddy government took a leaf out of Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme, envisaging direct cash transfer through the Rythu Bharosa scheme.

In July 2019, the Assembly approved the AP Land Licensed Cultivators Act 2019, in place of AP Land Licensed Cultivators Act, 2011 for providing CCRC to cultivators of leased lands.

The new Act makes it mandatory for landowners to sign the applications for CCRC and the agreements between landowners and cultivators are executed for a maximum period of 11 months.

“Most tenant farmers are from BC and SC communities and they see farming as an opportunity to live a decent life. Any delay in the issuance of CCR cards will lead to food insecurity and unemployment besides social tension in villages,” says MLC Dokka Manikya Vara Prasad.

A study report on ‘Implementation of Crop Cultivators Rights Act, Inclusion in Rythu Bharosa and other schemes’ by Rythu Swarajya Vedika points out that the absentee landlords walk away with all the benefits, such as input subsidy, crop loan and crop insurance, while tenant Farmers who toil barely make their ends meet and often end up in a debt trap. Tenant farmers also find themselves outside the social security net of the government as they are unable to access low interest rate loans, crop insurance and other cash support schemes.

“The team conducted a door-to-door survey covering nine districts, 31 villages and 3,855 tenant farmers. Information on the proportion of tenant farmers receiving CCRC cards, key reasons for not getting CCRC cards, if the signature of land owners has become a hurdle for getting CCRC cards and other issues was gathered,” says Kiran Kumar Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika.

The report reveals a large section of tenant farmers in West Godavari, East Godavari, Krishna and Guntur districts are landless, accounting for 55-73%. When this is combined with farmers owning less than one acre of land, the percentage goes up to 90.

The study also shows that only 9% of the 3,855 farmers surveyed received CCRC cards, a marginal increase from 6.1% in 2019 and 8.1% in 2020. In comparison, 17.7% of farmers said that they have received Loan Eligibility Cards in 2011. Guntur and Krishna, 5% and 9% of farmers respectively received the CCRC cards.

Owners’ apprehensions

Among the major reasons for the non-receipt of CCRC cards is the reluctance of land owners to sign on the consent forms due to a perception that it will affect their land ownership rights and the burden of repayment will fall on them, while the legal provisions in the Act make it clear that there is no change in land position.

The report also suggested that village secretariat and local officials facilitate the agreement between land owner and tenant farmers but the survey revealed that 86.5% of the surveyed farmers said that they had not received any assistance from the village secretariats.

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