Following the implementation of the model code of conduct in Telangana, the second phase of disbursal of farmer-friendly incentive scheme Rythu Bandhu is likely to be postponed post the elections, as it is now awaiting the Election Commission’s approval. The first phase of the scheme had benefited over 50 lakh farmers and the second phase of cheque distribution is slated for the second week of November. The Election Commission has directed the caretaker Telangana government to desist from taking any major policy decision and to only carry out day-to-day government activities.
State chief electoral officer Rajath Kumar said the second phase of the scheme for farmers would be referred to the EC for its suggestion. “There would not be any problem with respect to the ongoing schemes. However, we will refer the matter to the EC and seek their opinion,” Kumar said in a communication to the chief secretaries of all the states. The EC said the model code would be in force till the completion of the election to constitute the new legislative assembly.
The state government is implementing the Rythu Bandhu scheme, under which an assistance of Rs 8,000 an acre would be given to all eligible farmers in two instalments of Rs 4,000 each. Political observers point out that since the code of conduct is in implementation, the scheme, which directly provides Rs 4,000 to a farmer, has to be either discontinued or postponed, ahead of the polls.
The Election Commission issued a circular on Thursday saying that the model code of conduct shall apply on the caretaker state government and will be applicable on the central government also as far as matters relating to that state are concerned. Consequently neither the caretaker state government nor the Centre shall announce any new schemes or projects in respect of that state or undertake any of the activities prohibited under the model code of conduct.
“Though this is an ongoing scheme, we will wait for the EC’s approval to go ahead with the second phase,” said a senior official from the agriculture department. “We have distributed about 51.39 lakh cheques worth over Rs 5251.61 crore to the farmers till this week,’’ the official said. However, the opposition party said that the caretaker government does not have the power to distribute cheques at this point in time, as the election date is expected to be announced soon.
The state Cabinet had on September 6 recommended dissolution of the assembly before the government completed its five-year term. The state government is gearing up for early assembly polls. About 57.15 lakh farmers in 10,874 villages spread in 568 mandals have been declared eligible for the scheme. The government had allocated Rs 12,000 crore in the state budget for 2018-19, about Rs 6,000 crore each for the two seasons. The total cropped area in the rabi season is about 13 lakh hectares, against 43 lakh hectares in the kharif season. However, there have been agitations in the state by tenant farmers as they are not covered in this scheme, though they constitute about one-fourth of the farming community.
Meanwhile, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) chief spokesperson Dasoju Sravan suspects a major scam in this scheme. He says that providing an input subsidy of `4,000 per acre would not help the farmers in any manner. He said the farmers needed MSP for their produce and absolute control over spurious seeds and fertilisers. “The TRS government is just trying to play an election gimmick by distributing Rs 4,000 per acre to farmers. If it was sincere towards farmers, then it would have taken measures like introducing market intervention fund, MSP and steps to eradicate spurious seeds and fertilisers,” he added.