Monumental failure of MNREGA Scheme in Lingasugur Taluk

State Taluk

Farmers working at the agricultural land

Sahana S

A forty-five-year-old Chandrappa who arrived for village fair to celebrate along with his family members recalls his former days where he used to work in a coconut farm under the NAREGA scheme for three months.  He used to use the payment to look after his agricultural land in Hukunte at  Lingasugur Taluk. However, the middle-aged farmer was deprived of his salary and had to remain jobless for a month. To manage the expenses of the family, migrated to Tumkur from his village leaving his Agricultural land behind which has remained unattended for many years.

He laments about the scanty rainfall and faulty rural employment for migrating to different city from the village. Chandrappa is happy to see his daughters after two months and wish to take his family members along with them after settling down in Tumkur. He is content with the way of living in the city than struggling for food in Hukunte. This is the case of many such farmers in Hukunte village, and other surrounding communities in the Lingasugur Taluk. Ironically the farmers are provided with rural jobs in the taluk by the Public department officers from each town. Despite having job cards under the MNERGA scheme, several farmers including Chandrappa, Shivashankar and other farmers in Hukunte village stated that they had not been paid their dues for nearly three months after the completion of the project.

Initiation of MNREGA scheme 

NAREGA scheme was initiated in 2005, where they enhance security and livelihood for the people in rural areas by providing 100 days of wage employment in a financial year. However, according to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) portal, around Rs 9573 crore payments are due on material and labour employment Guarantee act. According to the reports, there are around 1.40 crore due in Raichur district.

Every day the farmers from Hukunte, Bhupura, Kale Lingasugur go to the allocated lands and work all day long to earn bread for their family. “Initially we didn’t face any problem regarding the wages as we used to get the payment after working for 10 – 15 days. However, now we have to force the PDO officers to pay our dues,” says Devappa, who works in an agriculture land at Bhupura. He also added that many farmers are migrating to different cities in search of work and return during festivals or any other special occasion.

Amaresh Yadav said:“ We ensure that all the farmers in the Lingasugur Taluk avoid migrating to different cities by providing job cards and help them yield better crops despite a dry spell in the Taluk. “ He further blames the local media in Raichur district for exaggerating about the drought issue in Lingasugur. According to the Central Groundwater Board, the Lingasugur taluk suffers from drought to mild drought conditions over the years.

The framers are deprived of rural jobs in the taluk 

Job card

Recently, the Karnataka government declared that 22 North Karnataka taluks including Bagalkot, Raichur Yadgir and Belagavi are drought-affected areas because of low rainfall last year. However, the situation has worsened in 2019. Chandrappa, who has migrated to Tumkur express his disappointment and mentions that many of his fellow farmers were deprived of MNREGA  jobs and are compelled to migrate to cities like Bangalore, Tumkur, Goa and Udupi.

Earlier in 2016, many farmers from Raichur district had staged a protest in front of Tipu Sultan Garden near the office of Deputy Commissioner for demanding the payment of pending wages under the NREGA  scheme. According to The Hindu, eight-gram panchayats in Lingasugur Taluk, 12-gram panchayats in Sindhanur taluk, 22 in Manvi taluk and 11 in Raichur taluk have job scheme dues.

The critical position of the scheme

 

The distress of the MNREGA scheme has reached a critical position in the northern states pushing the farmers to migrate for various districts and other cities in search of livelihood. Unlike Chandrappa, the 38-year-old farmer Shyane Gowda is jobless for over three months. The father of three children said  “ I have worked for 10 – 15 days in the field and yet to receive money from the government. Apart from the wages, the Public Department officers have not yet allocated new project still.”

Moreover, the head of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Amaranna Gudihal, who is the general secretary of the organisation is disappointed that most of his fellow farmers are migrating to different cities by neglecting agriculture lands in Lingasusgur Taluk.

The general secretary also stated that the State government is ignoring the farmer crisis in the  Raichur district. Despite the construction of Narayanpura Dam in 1982, which is built across Krishna River at Siddapur village, most of the farmers do not receive water from the dam and need to depend on monsoon season as the water level in the dam has hit rock bottom with zero inflows even during South West Monsoon season.

Several farmers in the village claim that the demand of work under the NREGA scheme is declining gradually and has to rely on monsoon season to grow crops or travel to different cities and earn money for their family.

The Taluk executive officer Amaresh Yadav admits that the government is suffering from the shortage of monetary fund to allocate wages to the farmers working under the scheme. Apart from the rural employment scheme, the taluk also faces deficit rainfall due to delay in North East Monsoon.

Apart from the massive failure of NREGA scheme, lingasusgur Taluk is facing drought since 2015, where 90% of the lands in the region are dry, and farmers have to depend on monsoon season to grow crops. As a result, most of the farmers are leaving their villages and opting for small jobs in different cities. However, according to The New Indian Express,   the cabinet sub-committee for drought chaired by Revenue Minister RV Deshpande discussed regarding deficit rainfall and had declared that out of 100 taluks 24 districts are affected by drought. As per down to earth website severe drought strikes India for every eight to nine years and a primary reason for poverty in the country.

Moreover, the Horticultural department in the Lingasugur Taluk is providing Papaya, pomegranate and coconut seeds as an alternative solution to the farmers to earn a profit by growing horticultural crops in their land. The Department states that they help the farmers to produce horticulture crops with the help of ground water.

According to the data provided by the Horticultural department, there is around 45,467 job card issued to the farmers in Lingasugur Taluk. Out of which  14,1700 are active job holders, and the rest of them are struggling to catch hold of the job cards according to the senior director of the Horticultural department Yogeshwar. R, most of the farmers work for 150 days, where they are assigned to construct bunds and open ponds in other fields. Despite the awareness created by the government regarding job cards, and appointing a leader among them to help their village in preventing migration, most of the farmers remained jobless making them move to different places.

Kuri Nagappa, who owns a three-acre land in Kale Lingasugur alleges that, Apart from the negligence of the Panchayat Development officer, specific schemes which are beneficial to the farmers was received to one of the farmers (who, he did not wish to be named ). ” Interestingly farmers are unable to read between the lines of rules and regulations of the rural development job. Instead of working for three months, they work for around 10 -15 days per project,” says Yogeshwar R, senior director of the Horticulture department adding to that he said that they provide other means of sources like Sericulture, Apiculture to help the farmers earn money to survive in the village. The data revealed by the Horticulture Department in the Lingasugur taluk shows that around 800 farmers have opted for Sericulture and Apiculture in the lingasugur taluk.

While Agricultural officer, Manjunath M said: “Initially, job cards were lenient such that anyone without a BPL(Below Poverty Line ) card can also register in MNREGA  scheme, to earn extra money from work. However,  they have constrained the rules and regulations of the project. In which only those farmers with the BPL card have access to the job card.”

Lingasugur has a tropical climate, where nearly 6500 hectares are used to grow papaya, pomegranate and onion. Horticulture department is also encouraging farmers to grow sandalwood trees in their fields, by providing required tools including diesel engine for pumping water and assisting them in yielding better crops in their land. Further, the farmers can sell their produce at the APMC yard, and the open market can make a profit out of it. Despite having a shortage of groundwater, they try to supply water with the help of the dam.

Solution for a dry spell  in the taluk 

Recently, the Raichur Agricultural department has come with a unique project, ‘Sujala ‘ that is yet to be approved by the government where they can help the farmers to survive from the dry spell with better types of equipment. However, most of the farmers are negligent of obtaining job cards as they feel it’s not worth working in another field when they are not provided with the payment.

Santhosh .M, who owns an agriculture land said: ” I have seen my neighbours lamenting about the pending wages from the NREGA scheme, so it is better not to register for the job card then regretting later for working in other framers land and deprived of the wages.”  Even though most of the farmers like Santhosh M  tried to produce crops like Sunflower, Jowar and cotton for their survival in the villages, they are unable to get access to the water because of the dry spell.

Farmers have not received wages over 70 days  

Moreover experts from the Central Ground WATER, Raichur mention that farmers in Raichur, whose lands are partially irrigated by the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal, including areas like Manvi, Sindhanur, Lingasugur, Sirwar, and Maski taluks, continue to reel under drought. There is little hope of survival for a significant portion of cotton, sunflower, red gram and pearl millet.

Mallikarjuna. M, Assistant agricultural officer at the Agricultural department Under Rural development Employment said that the man dage ( man per day ) for the work is 249 Rs per day irrespective of gender. However, the farmers in surrounding villages allege that they have not received wages for the last 70 days.

The reports provided by the Agricultural department in Lingasugur reveal that the geographical area of the Lingasugur taluk is 194010 hectares out which 152240 hectares are suitable for cultivation. Agricultural officer Mallikarjuna .M further explains that  “Agricultural land is divided into four categories where the land of the farmers is measured based on hobli wise.” He also adds that the smaller land ranges between 0- 2.25 acres, medium and ranges between  5.01 – 10.00, big 10.00 and above and limited fields between 0.00 1acres. In which only those farmers ranging with small and medium agricultural land are eligible to access for job cards and other government schemes to assist the farmers in surviving in the Taluk.

 

Moreover, marginal land is not considered for cultivation, and hence based on the area, the farmers are provided with  Ganga Kalyana scheme and job cards. According to the Agricultural officer Mallikarjuna. M,  the projects like Ganga Kalyana, where the farmers are equipped with 40% of the monetary fund to help them dig groundwater in their land. Similarly, Amreesha Yadav, Assistant director of the  Agricultural department says that even though they do not have the data regarding the migration of the farmers, but tells that migration has not been prominent in the taluk. On the other hand, according to the Chandrappa nearly one member from each family in villages like Bhupura, Kale Lingasugur and Hukunte, migrate to different places because of the shortage of jobs and deficient rainfall.

On the other hand, professor Sathish Kumar, U states that, despite having Raitha Samparka Kendra, the farmers are not able to communicate with the centres. After conducting detailed research on the irrigation land in the state, experts reveal that specific problems such as water crisis and salinity are because practising an unscientific method of land including significant use of fertilisers and pesticides in some regions of irrigation projects in the country including Karnataka, which threatens the sustainability of irrigated agriculture.

The RKVY project conducted by the Raichur agricultural university also mentions that about 8.50 M has been oppressed by these twin problems in the country, whereas,  it is about 4 lakh in Karnataka state. Of this, 90,000 ha is found in the TBP alone out of the command area of 3.63 lakh ha (25%). Providing subsurface drains (SSDs) has been found useful in the reclamation of such affected lands by lowering the water table and also reducing soil salinity in the crop root zone.

Lack of equipment to save crops

Meanwhile, only Erekeri village has been provided with open ponds amidst the nearby villages in the district. Satish Kumar U admits that farmers are not equipped with technology to save their crops as most of the equipment is expensive and the government is not providing them with a subsidy to access them for the lower price.

Farmers like Chandrappa are not able to survive in their village and hence had to migrate to earn a better living. Apart from providing them with rations on subsidy, the agrarians are left with no choice than travelling to different districts to work.

Migration of farmers in Lingasugur

Based on the Agricultural Update journal,   they conducted a study on purpose and factors forcing the small and marginal farm family members for migration in Raichur district of Karnataka. They studied purposive and random sampling technique and selected the samples from taluks villages and migrant small and marginal farmers which constituted 120 sample size. The study revealed that majority (98.30 %) of the small farmers are migrating because of factors like unemployment and weak economic condition of the family including low wage rate with 96.60 per cent.

The main factors for the migration of farmers are because of better employment rate  (98.30%) regular income (98.30 %) better amenities (96.60 %), and wage-differentials (96.60 %).   Adding to the study, the experts also mentions government should try to train farmers for the development of non-farm agricultural activity such as handloom industry and small scale manufacturing industry help them sustain their livelihood. This is a persistent problem in  North Karnataka but was officially announced in mid-August by the Karnataka government, which was known to the farmers way earlier than the government.

Several media reports had the forecast by The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD)  where its grim prognosis of deficient rain, unfortunately, was validated. One of the statements by Business line pointed that,  early September, Karnataka had received rainfall 43 per cent below average and had compared that little rain in 2014.  However, around, 135 of 176 taluks from North Karnataka are affected, four times the number last year.

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