Landless farmers get raw deal in flood relief

Leasehold farmer Venkataramana and his sister-in-law Sridevi rebuild their shelter which was washed away in recent floods, in Aikur village of Surpur taluk, Yadgir district. DH Photo/Pushkar V

Landless farmers are languishing at the bottom of the agrarian society, which is gripped by an economic crisis. 

Having secured a few acres of land for cultivation at high costs, the losses caused by the recent floods have devastated many such farmers in Yadgir and Raichur districts.

Venkataramana, a landless farmer and his family, including two children, barely escaped with their lives in the dark of the night as Krishna water levels surged alarmingly behind them. The warning for possible inundation due to heavy inflow from dams upstream would come only a day later.

The floodwaters that engulfed the leased land for about 10 days destroyed the paddy and cotton crop sown weeks before. Venkataramana and his brother Muralikrishna, who hail from Maski in Raichur district, had standing crops on 15 acres of land, leased after paying an advance of Rs 2 lakh a year ago. During the cultivating period, they had to pay the landowners their share of the crop, while trying to scrape something for their families.

Now, looking at the empty fields overgrown with weeds, he is grateful for the previous crop that helped them save some money. “We are alive today because we cleared our debts recently. Or else, drinking kerosene was the only alternative,” he says. Apart from the crop, 50 bags of fertilisers, household articles and farming equipment were washed away.

But they are not eligible for any relief. “What’s the point in getting Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000 anyway? It just shows how much farmers are worth,” a furious Sridevi, his sister-in-law, says.

Balappa, another leasehold farmer at Hirerayakumpi, Raichur district, also lost his crop. “Many landless farmers from nearby Andhra Pradesh and Telangana too cultivate in these parts and suffered the same fate,” he says.

According to Chamarasa Patil of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, leasehold farmers had suffer the most during such calamities. “Even if government gives some relief, it will go to the land owner as property documents are with them. Rarely do these owners pay relief to the cultivators.” Since most leases are oral agreements, they don’t fall under the purview
of law. 

When contacted, Revenue Secretary (disaster management) T K Anil Kumar said any relief sanctioned for crop relief goes to the owner of the land. On whether there were any provisions to provide relief for leasehold farmers, he said he will have to check.

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