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AP law that seeks to protect sharecroppers’ rights fails to provide benefits

By on March 8, 2022 0
AP law that seeks to protect sharecroppers' rights fails to provide benefits

Hyderabad: Isukupatla Satya Narayana, a sharecropper from Nedunuru village in Ainavilli mandal, had been farming on leased land for 10 years. Over the past three years, he has had to deal with heavy crop losses. He could not pay the regular land lease in the form of sacks of paddy because he had lost his entire crop during the Kharif season in 2021. One day in February 2021, the landowner came to his house and publicly forced to pay the lease. Overwhelmed by debt and insult, he consumed pesticides and committed suicide.

Nearly 75% of all farmer suicides in Andhra Pradesh are by sharecroppers, notes Rythu Swarajya Vedika (RSV). What forces them to take this step?

Only 9.4% of sharecroppers in Andhra Pradesh receive Cultivator Rights Cards (CCRC), according to a recent RSV study conducted in 31-gram panchayats in nine districts of Andhra Pradesh – Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Kurnool, Guntur, Krishna, Prakasam, YSR Kadapa and Anantapur. The in-depth survey of state sharecroppers also revealed that the new system does not help farmers as much as the old Loan Eligibility Card (LEC) system.

What is CRCC and how does it work?

In its efforts to include sharecroppers in schemes such as Rythu Bharosa, Zero Interest Crop Loan, Disaster Compensation, etc., the government of Andhra Pradesh introduced the Farmers Rights Act in 2019, repealing the AP Land Licensed Cultivators Act of 2011.

But what was introduced with the intention of including sharecroppers made it harder for them to access those benefits.

While the Land Licensed Cultivators (LLC) Act required cultivators to submit a simple application to the tax authorities detailing the details of the land being leased, the Cultivators Act requires the signature of the landowner on the demand. Under the LLC Act, it was the responsibility of the MRO and VRO tax officials to verify through the gram sabha and issue the card. Under the CC Act, the property owner’s signature constitutes verification.

Only 26% of estimated tenants obtained the CCRC

According to an RTI response obtained by RSV, in 2021, of the estimated 16,00,483 sharecroppers in the state, only 26% received the CCRC. CCRC was poorly distributed in districts like Chittoor, Anantapur and Nellore where only 1%, 2% and 5% of estimated sharecroppers received CCRC in 2021.

When the LEC was in place in 2019, 7,14,020 sharecroppers received the LEC but after the formulation of the CCRC, in 2020, only 2,72,679 sharecroppers received the CCRC and in 2021, only 4,14,795 received the CCRC.

9.4% of sharecroppers received the CCRC

Of the 3,855 sharecroppers surveyed, only 364 benefited from CCRC, or 9.4% in 2021. In 2020 and 2019, it was even less – 8.1% and 6.1% respectively. Whereas in 2019 and before, when the LEC was in place, 17.7% of the farmers surveyed had received the LEC.

The distribution of CCRC is extremely low in districts like YSR Kadapa, Visakhapatnam, Anantapur and Prakasam districts with only 0%, 1%, 2% and 3% of farmers surveyed receiving CCRC in 2021.

The study also revealed that there was a huge disparity in the distribution of CCRCs between social categories. While Other Castes (OC) constitute 29% of the total sharecroppers in these villages, they received 41% of the CCRCs issued. In contrast, the Backward Castes (BC) constitute 40% of the total sharecroppers in these villages, but they received only 28% of the CCRCs issued.

Reasons for not receiving the CCRC

The study found four reasons why sharecroppers do not receive the CCRC: lack of awareness, landlord refusal, belief that it is useless, and others who have applied for the card but do not has not been issued. Statewide, in 2021, 45% of renters cited lack of awareness as the reason while 43% said it was due to landlord non-consent. Seven percent decided not to apply because they thought there was no point, and 5% had applied but had not received the CPAB.

It has been found that non-consenting landowners is the main reason why sharecroppers are unable to get CCRC. A large proportion of sharecroppers said that if they insisted that the landowner consent to the CCRC, the landlord clearly stated that he would not lease the land to the tenant.

In districts like Visakhapatnam, Prakasam, Kadapa, Anantapur and Kurnool, 66% sharecroppers did not receive CCRC due to lack of awareness, while in districts like East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, 69% of sharecroppers did not receive any. ‘t receive CCRC because the landowners did not consent and did not sign the applications.

The 2011 law made it possible to issue LECs to sharecroppers without requiring them to obtain the landowner’s signature. Local tax authorities had the power to ascertain the propriety of the lease through field verification and gram sabha. The lack of objection on the part of the owner was equated with tacit consent. The fact that 17.1% of sharecroppers in the study received the LEC while only 9.6% received the CCRC is evidence that the new landlord signature requirement for the CCRC proved to be a major hurdle.

Why do landlords refuse to sign applications?

The study also attempted to understand why landowners were unwilling to sign the applications. Landowners are reluctant for two reasons:

a) The risk that their signature will affect their ownership rights in the land and expose them to lawsuits from tenants asserting rights in the land.

(b) If they allow tenants to get CCRC and the tenant takes out a bank loan, the burden of repayment could fall on the landlord as his land is involved in cultivation.

But the CCRC law makes it clear that the issuance of the card does not affect land ownership rights, or that the banker is not allowed to recover crop loans made to the CCRC tenant holder by proceeding against the owner’s land.

Some landowners still cling to the AP Tenancy Act (1956) unaware that it has been repealed and poses risks to land ownership rights. In addition, most of them enjoy significant benefits such as interest-free crop loans, disaster payouts, crop insurance payments, and even the benefit of occasional loan forgiveness, depending of their land title.

Role of village authorities

Although the CCRC law stipulates the role of the village level authorities to facilitate the agreement between the landowner and the sharecroppers, in reality there is hardly any effort on their part.

Of the 3,855 sharecroppers, 86.5% or 3,522 tenants received no help from village officials while 9.6% tried to facilitate but were unsuccessful. Only in 3.7% of cases were village officials able to convince the landowner to allow the tenant to be issued the CCRC. The study reveals that a majority of Village Revenue Officers (VROs) do not wish to enter into these uncomfortable interactions with landowners who are often the most influential people in the village and the village volunteers are too young to even attempt to convince the landowners. .

Rythu Bharosa and disaster compensation

Rythu Bharosa and Disaster Compensation are two government schemes that can be used with the CCRC.

Unlike Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme or the central government’s PM KISAN scheme which requires the farmer to own land to be eligible for the scheme, Rythu Bharosa can also be used by landless farmers. However, the study showed that of the 210 landless tenants who received CCRC, only 63 received Rythu Bharosa. This means that only 11.5% of landless sharecroppers receive CCRC cards, and of this number, only 3% receive support from Rythu Bharosa.

Loss of crops due to disasters such as unseasonable rains is one of the main reasons for the high indebtedness and distress of sharecroppers. However, only four sharecroppers out of the 3,855 surveyed said they had received disaster compensation.

Graphics: Rythu Swarajya Vedika