Compensation For Crop Loss: Landless, Tenant Farmers Miss Out
Jan 23, 2023 | Pratirodh Bureau
To support his family of 10 people, Govardhan does contract farming on five acres of land. In the last 2-3 years, he has faced crop loss due to climate change several times (Photo: Arvind Shukla)
Ram Sagar, 64, a farmer who lives in Turkauli village of Sitapur district in Uttar Pradesh, lost three and a half acres of paddy crop due to heavy, unseasonal rains in October 2022. Another resident of the village, 42-year-old Jabir Ali, also lost an acre of paddy. As per the state government’s promise, Sagar will soon get the compensation, but Ali, a contract farmer farming on someone else’s land, will not get any.
The story of Channu Lal Rajput of Thekua village in the same district of Uttar Pradesh, about 15 kilometres from Turkauli, is like that of Ali. He had taken 2.5 acres of land on contract, but the crop suffered heavy damage due to intense rain. And just like many other tenant farmers, locally known as bataidaars, Rajput too will not get any compensation for his loss.
Standing in almost knee-deep water, Rajput, 50, cursed the day he had taken up paddy cultivation on contract. Heavy rains in October destroyed his ripened crop. In 2022, his wheat and mentha crops also got damaged due to extreme rainfall.
“I do not own even an inch of land. I had to give the farm owner 12 quintals (1,200 kilograms) of paddy for his land. This is part of the verbal agreement with the landowner. I spent about Rs. 30,000 on cultivating this, but I do not think I will even recover the cost,” he told. Rajput had taken Rs 30,000 from a moneylender in July-August 2022 at 5% interest. He calculated that if he manages to harvest 50-55 quintals of rice from the farm, he would have enough to give to the farm owner and would get sufficient for his need as well. But now Rajput and many more like him are in deep trouble.
Since the last few years, weather events and natural calamities such as floods, drought, excessive rainfall, and unseasonal rains have taken a toll on the farm sector, and the farmers are facing losses.
A senior official from the Uttar Pradesh Relief Commissioner’s office told Mongabay-India on December 6, 2022 that crops of 1.1 million farmers in 51 districts were damaged due to heavy rains and floods in October that year, affecting about 80,000 hectares of land. The state government released Rs. 200 crores (Rs. two billion) for 42,000 hectares of the affected land while the process is on for the rest of the area.
But this does not signal any relief for contract farmers. A Lekhpal (local Revenue Assistant), Nripendra Yadav, who is from a village close to the Ghaghra river in Sitapur district, told Mongabay-India that “in case of crop loss, only those who own the land will get compensation. Because on entering the gata number or khasra number (a unique number assigned to a parcel of land in rural areas) on the government’s portal, only the registered name is considered as the beneficiary. There is no rule for the contractor.”
Mongabay-India further confirmed the same with the Relief Commissioner’s office in Uttar Pradesh. A senior officer stated, “We work under the guidelines of central government’s disaster management policy, in which there are no specifications for landless or tenant farmers.”
These guidelines mean that several farmers, such as Rajput and Ali, will not receive compensation for their crop loss due to weather events. Farmers like them take the land of others on contract to do farming and, in return, give the owners a share of the crop or a fixed monetary amount. Most of the work of farming on other’s land is through informal or verbal contracts, which are not legally valid. In this arrangement, the entire risk is of the cultivator.
Compensation is not the only pain of these farmers – they are also left out of government schemes. For instance, the tenant farmers neither get the Rs. 6,000 per year from the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi nor get an agriculture loan (KCC) at 4%, as is provided for farmers. They are also not entitled to crop insurance schemes. The scheme says, “To provide income support to all landholding farmers’ families in the country, having cultivable land.”