Gundupalli, Chittoor: This morning when I started my yatra it was very cold—the weather had changed dramatically. Some farmers from Mopireddypalli met me with a petition. They told me that they had drilled a bore well and struck water too. However, though they had applied for an agricultural power connection and had even paid the requisite amount, it has not been sanctioned by the government, as yet, and are therefore, put to great loss. They have been running around government offices and officials on a regular basis and had given applications to the District Collector, without success. They had even met the Minister and appealed to him to help them with this simple issue. Yet, nothing came of their efforts, they lamented.

During the course of my yatra, at least 40-50 farmers had the same story to narrate. What a sorry state of affairs this is! To see farmers suffer like this is extremely painful—seeds, manure, loans, minimum price—they seem to be fighting a constant battle on all fronts. To make a living through agriculture, they need certain minimum facilities such as power. If this is denied to him, how will a farmer carry on his agricultural activity?

Any government worth its salt prioritises agriculture. Farmers should be accorded the most important place in our society and must be given agricultural power connections on a priority basis. In these areas where there is no drinking water facility, predominantly rain fed areas should be given priority.

Even after farmers pay the requisite amount if lakhs of such power connections are pending approval, what does it demonstrate? What sort of importance is the Telugu Desam government according to farming? What has happened to the promise of free power? Has the issue of free power supply to farmers also been completely watered down as in the case of many other schemes?

Before I ended my yatra for the day, I met a farmer, Arumugham, who had taken an acre of agricultural land on lease (qaulu farmer). He took me to his jaggery furnace. He had borrowed Rs.50,000 and started growing sugar cane. In the very first year he faced a difficult situation with no rains and then the minimum price had dropped steeply the next year. The yield had fallen eight cart loads last year to five now. The restrictions imposed by the Chandrababu Naidu government on jaggery has been making things very difficult and have resulted in the prices of jaggery dipping sharply. He fears that he may not even be able to earn even Rs.100,000 of which he has to shell out Rs.50,000 for the lease amount. His fear is, how would he be able to pay off his loan? What will happen to his day to day survival? This is a thought which frightens him. He said—“It is with great difficulty that we prepared jaggery and then there are restrictions being imposed by the TDP government on the sale of our produce.

As a result no one is coming forward to buy our produce and we are forced to sell it for a lower price and are therefore, put to great loss”. When I asked him why he opted for sugarcane cultivation even after being aware of the difficulties associated with it, his response was—“What to do Anna; I am a farmer who had taken this land on lease (qaulu farmer) and banks are not extending loans to such farmers. If we approach private lenders, no one except jaggery businessmen, is willing to give us a loan. Without any other alternative, we are forced to take up sugarcane cultivation, he lamented. How unjust can the system be and how insensitive can this government get? There are lakhs of such farmers who have taken land on lease and who are not being given loans by banks and have fallen victims to loans borrowed from private moneylenders. Their produce is not fetching them the minimum price and at the same time they are not able to pay the lease amount. These farmers find themselves trapped in this pincer-like situation and are struggling to make a living. They are sinking deeper into a vortex of deaths by the day. Isn’t it the responsibility of the government to ensure that such farmers get bank loans?

Finally, I have a question for the chief minister—there are lakhs of farmers in this category in the state. Have at least 10% of them been given bank loans? Have you understood their problems or are you feigning ignorance?