(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 11, 2011
'Land Tenancy Acts Ignored by
Below are excerpts of the interview given by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and secretary of Andhra Pradesh state committee, B V Raghavulu to Prajasakti about the land tenancy issue that has come to the fore once again in the state.
(Q): Would you please explain the land tenancy system in the state?
BVR: The land tenancy system has expanded a lot in the state of Andhra Pradesh over the last decade. The landlords who cultivate paddy in the delta regions and those landowners who live in the urban areas are giving away their lands for tenancy in more numbers. These lands are being undertaken for tenancy, in more numbers by the agricultural labourers and the poor farmers, that too mostly by those belonging to the SCs and backward castes. As per the government data, there are 25 lakh tenant farmers in the state. But the farmers organisations put that number at 40 lakhs. In the delta areas, tenant farmers constitute as much as 50 to 70 per cent of total farmers. In some villages it is to a tune of even 80 per cent. This land tenancy system is spreading fast into other areas of the state as well. This system has expanded considerably even amongst the dry lands that cultivate the commercial crops. The poor farmers are moving into tenancy farming in those lands along with the capitalist agriculturalists, who are doing tenancy by undertaking commercial crops in tens and hundreds of acres of land.
(Q) The tenant farmers are forced to borrow from private lenders at usurious rates and are suffering a lot because of the problems in repayment etc. Has this issue come to your notice?
BVR: Yes it is true. There are many reasons for this. Mainly, the banks are refusing to lend to tenant farmers under the pretext that they have no properties to put up as collateral for the loans. On the other hand, the landowners are taking away banks loans even for cultivation of lands they had leased out. Because of these reasons, the tenant farmers are not in a position to invest more on the land. Not only that, they are also forced to resort to the private lenders at usurious rates of interest just for the sake of the bare minimum of the capital for cultivation.
(Q) Are there no laws to protect the tenant farmers?
BVR: Yes, there are. But they are not being implemented by successive governments. Even now the practice of the orally agreed upon tenancy method is going on. Although there are separate tenant farmer protection Acts for both the Andhra and the Telangana regions, they are not being implemented. The revenue department is supposed to compulsorily register the tenant farmers under the 1956 Act and as well implement 1/4th tenancy rate for the irrigated lands and 1/3rd tenancy rate for the dry lands. But this is not taking place.
(Q) The tenants are coming forward to take land for tenancy despite all these problems. What could be the reason for that?
BVR: There are many reasons for this. The tenant production method is useful only for exploitation but not for the development of agriculture. Most of the fruits of such cultivation would go to the landowner. Recent studies have concluded that the tenant farmers are the losers under this system. But, because of the distress conditions prevailing in the villages, those opting for tenancy believe that they would at least have assured employment throughout the year, and they could as well get subsidiary income through the animal husbandry. They also feel their social status would be enhanced by going for tenancy. These are some of the reasons for the poor embracing tenant farming, despite knowing that it is not profitable. There is another important fallout due to this. Because the tenants are not in a position to invest capital for agricultural development and the landowners are not showing any interest to do so, the overall agricultural production in the state is not improving. In fact, it has stagnated over the last decade.
(Q) The government has announced that it would give identity cards to the tenants…
A: True. Only because of the pressure of the people’s agitations, the state government had come forward to issue identity cards to the tenant farmers, even before their names could be enrolled in the records. And an Act was enacted for that. But even this very constrained Act was not being implemented till now properly. There were about 7.5 lakh applications from the tenant farmers for the identity cards. As of now, only 5.5 lakh identity cards have been issued. Moreover, despite the sowing season at the end, only 58,000 tenant farmers received loans to a tune of Rs 118 crore as of now. Nearly 90 per cent of the tenant farmers who got identity cards did not get the loans. It must be noted that only below 25 per cent of the total tenant farmers in the state have received the identity cards.
(Q) What is the reason for this plight?
BVR: There are many reasons for this plight. The chief reason is the lack of the commitment on the part of the government. As of now, the government in the state is completely inactive. The administration is paralysed. The Congress-led UPA-II government at the centre, which has destabilised the politics of the state, had totally destroyed the development and the public welfare in the state. The ruling party, which had played foul with the unity of the state, is just ensuring that the game continues and is whiling away time in its internal bickering. On the other side is the apathetic attitude of the state government, which should issue the identity cards by convincing the landowners. Actually, it has come to our notice that at many places the administration is encouraging the landowners not to give consent to the issuing of identity cards. Even the bankers are granting farm loans to the owners well ahead, and thus are rejecting the same to the tenant farmer. They are just ignoring the law that says that ‘the tenant farmer could as well be given the loan, despite the fact that his/her landowner has already taken the loan.’ They are coming forward with lame excuses like 'they did not receive the orders from superiors'. At the same time, political parties like the Congress and the TDP, which have their strong support in the farmer communities of the villages, are not working sincerely to get the cards issued to the tenant farmers. In fact, most of the tenant farmers of the state vote in favor of either of these two parties only. These two parties, which garner their votes, are now ignoring them and thus are showing their true class nature.
(Q) What should the tenant farmers do now, in this backdrop, for their own welfare? And what are the Left parties going to do for them?
BVR: The tenant farmers should be brought into united struggles in order to avoid the fate that has befallen the laws of the past. There is no other way for them other than struggle path. As of now, the tenant farmers are worried that they may not get the land for tenancy if they take to the path of agitation. This is natural too. But they should realise that, as they themselves need the land for tenancy, the landowners too need them in order to till the land and thus get the returns. The tenant farmers should realise this fact and thus enhance their own consciousness. The Left parties are working towards building up the self-confidence amongst the tenant farmers and thus ensure that they get united.