Debt-ridden Tulasi farmers demand relief

Debt-ridden Tulasi farmers demand relief

Tulasi, Ocimum Tenuiflorum or Ocimum Sanctum Basil, has wide importance as a sacred plant as per Hindu belief and it is extensively used as a...

Addanki (Prakasam dist): Tulasi, Ocimum Tenuiflorum or Ocimum Sanctum- Basil, has wide importance as a sacred plant as per Hindu belief and it is extensively used as a medicinal plant.

Though the sacred texts claim devotees go to heaven after praying to the God with the sacred leaves of Tulasi, the farmers who raised the plants in Andhra Pradesh districts went into debts, after they followed the directions of horticulture officials and agents of an organisation.

During June and July 2018, a few representatives from the Jai Kissan Hakkula Samvidhan Samstha, having a registered office in Rangareddy district in Telangana State led by its Director Budanaboyina Srinivasa Rao, having Aadhaar number 2742 5963 3327, met the farmers in Darsi, Addanki and other constituencies in Prakasam district and Vinukonda and other constituencies in Guntur district.

They explained to the farmers that they are a non-profit organisation working in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to provide maximum income to farmers and tenant farmers by promoting herbal and medicinal plants.

They said that Tulasi, as a medicinal plant has great demand and announced that if the farmers came forward to cultivate it, the organisation will provide all support including the power tools for tilling, sowing and harvesting.

They promised that they would harvest the crop on their own and will provide a minimum price of Rs 40,000 to 50,000 per acre for the first harvest and Rs 30,000 to 40,000 for the next two harvests while entering into an agreement with the farmers.

To enroll more farmers in the State, they involved the agriculture and horticulture department officials to motivate the farmers. After entering into an agreement with farmers for taking up cultivation in around 1,500 acres, they brought the Commissioner of Horticulture department Chiranjiv Choudary to Addanki and made him distribute unsigned cheques for Rs 10,000 as an advance to the farmers.

The innocent farmers suffering from drought believed in the organisation, just because it is promoted by the agriculture and horticulture officials. They purchased the seed at Rs 3,000 per acre and invested in the fertilisers, nutrients, and everything required from their pocket, as the representatives of the organisation were not available in time.

The first harvest of the crop was ready by November and December in some fields, but no representative of the organisation came into contact with the farmers. The worried farmers visited the registered office of the organisation, just to face ire of the family of Srinivasa Rao.

Ch Veerakoteswara Rao of Ballikurava mandal said that they went to Hyderabad as the crop is going into dark green. He said that the lady Jai Kissan Hakkula Samvidhan Samstha office offered only a meagre price for the crop, on the condition that the farmers will harvest and transport it to their office. When they demanded that they should meet the director Srinivasa Rao and showed the agreement, the lady showed the door to them.

After returning from the Hyderabad, the farmers visited the agriculture and horticulture officials. The officials told them that they are not responsible for the crop or losses to the farmers. They washed their hands just by announcing that they organised the awareness programme to educate the farmers on alternate crops but didn’t suggest to them to believe in any individual organisation.

After investing about Rs 50,000 on the crop and the organisation refusing to buy the produce, the farmers launched an agitation and protested at Addanki and Ongole. They tried to meet Prakasam District Collector Vadarevu Vinay Chand and others demanding justice. They are demanding that the government should compensate for the losses incurred by them and take action against Agriculture ADA Malakondareddy, AO Srinivas, AO Ramesh and horticulture officer Naveen and Commissioner Chiranjiv Choudary for colluding with the organisation and misleading them.

However, Assistant Director of horticulture at Ongole, M Hari Prasad, told The Hans India that the horticulture department has nothing to do with the fraud that has taken place. But as responsible officers, they complained to the police and registered cases against the organisation for cheating the farmers.

said that he will take the issue to the notice of higher officials and see if the crop can be marketed through the department and provide the best price to the farmers.

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