The latest scheme announced by Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao extending cash assistance of Rs 4,000 per acre to farmers every agricultural season has attracted the attention of the Narendra Modi government.
The scheme called Rythu Bandhu, or farmer’s friend, will be inaugurated in the third week of April with farmers getting cheques. The state government will have to shell out Rs 5,685 crore for the scheme covering 14.21 million acres of cultivable land.
The exercise will continue till May-end so as to help farmers buy agriculture inputs such as seeds, pesticides and fertilisers by the commencement of the kharif season in the first week of June.
On Tuesday, the Centre summoned principal secretary of Telangana state agriculture department C Parthasarathy to New Delhi to give a detailed presentation of the scheme before ministers and officials representing agriculture, finance, defence, food and civil supplies, railways, rural development, ports and national highways.
“It appears the Centre is keen on replicating our Rythu Bandhu scheme and has asked me to explain the modalities of implementing the same. I told them how we have identified genuine beneficiaries through revamping revenue records, digitising land records, assessing farmers’ financial requirements, etc.,” Parthasarathy said on Wednesday.
“We have identified around 7.2 million farmers after revision of land records in the last two months. They would be given Rs 4,000 per acre during the kharif and rabi seasons — which means, each farmer would get Rs 8,000 per acre per year,” the official said.
The Telangana government has earmarked Rs 12,000 crore for the scheme in the annual state budget for 2018-19.
“However, it is going to be a heavy burden on the Centre if it has to implement it in the entire country. The central agriculture ministry made a rough estimate of the financial implications of the scheme and found it would cost Rs 2 lakh crore every year,” Parthasarathy, who submitted a comprehensive report to Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, said.
Since the Centre has not made any provision for any such scheme in the Union budget 2018-19, it may not implement the scheme this year. “However, there is every possibility that the BJP might include this scheme in its election manifesto for the 2019 general election,” said another official in the agriculture department, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, the chief minister defended his decision to announce various schemes targeting particular sections of society. “Yes, they are schemes aimed at attracting voters. Ours is a political party and we have to attract voters,” he asserted in the state assembly.