Hyderabad: Forget about its promise of doubling the farmers’ income, the NDA-led union government appears to be making attempts to double the input costs for farmers who are toiling in their fields to feed the nation. After cutting short the subsidies on fertilisers and other input investments, the Centre had recently hiked the fuel prices to bulk consumers which had an adverse impact on farmers in rural areas. They are now forced to spend an additional Rs 1,500-2,500 per acre per crop.
With the governments promoting farm mechanization and labour costs rising sharply, a large number of farmers in rural areas are increasingly depending on tractors, tillers and harvestors in the recent times. They spend anywhere around Rs 5,000-Rs 6,000 per acre for tilling/ploughing with tractors, Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 for harvestors and another Rs 1,000-Rs 1,500 for other purposes till recently. In all, a farmer spent Rs 7,500-Rs 9,500 per acre per crop season till recently.
Considering the need for supporting farm mechanisation, several Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS) in Telangana have obtained fuel filling stations to serve the needs of farmers in remote areas. Nearly 65 such filling stations were established by different PACS across the State, with around 38 filling stations located in erstwhile Karimnagar district alone. They exclusively cater to the needs of farmers who are members of these respective PACS. They preferred to purchase fuel from their own societies rather than commercial outlets. During the peak season, the daily fuel sales are pegged at around 3,000-5,000 litres per day as against 1,000 litres per day during lean period.
However, the entire scenario had turned topsy-turvy in the recent times after the Centre took an ‘illogical’ decision to increase fuel prices for bulk consumers by more than Rs 15 per litre for diesel during February this year. This is over and above the ever-changing fuel prices in the open market. At present, the bulk consumers like TSRTC, Singareni Collieries Company Limited and even Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies (PACS) are currently forced to spend Rs 126 per litre petrol and Rs 124 per litre diesel as against Rs 116 per litre petrol and Rs 107 per litre diesel in the commercial filling stations respectively.
“Due to the Centre’s illogical decision, farmers have stopped coming to the filling stations operated by the PACS for the last two months. Thus, we are forced to shutdown our filling stations. It had not only dented the meagre income for operating PACS, but also is forcing farmers to travel for 10-20 km on their two-wheelers in some areas to reach nearby commercial filling station and buy diesel,” Karimnagar PACS Chairpersons’ Forum president K Tirupathi Reddy told Telangana Today.
The Centre’s decision had not only cost dearly to the PACS, but the steep hike in fuel prices also had an adverse impact on expenditure against hiring tractors, harvestors and other vehicles which run on diesel. The union government’s greed to milk more revenue on fuel, had shot these rental prices up by at least Rs 1,500-Rs 2,500 per acre per crop season.
“While the TSRTC or SCCL may pass on the burden to their consumers, the PACS cannot opt for the same. Rather than strengthening us, the Centre’s move could weaken the cooperative sector as farmers are opting to purchase fuel from commercial filling stations,” Tirupathi Reddy said.
Expressing concern over the plight of the farming community following the closure of the petrol filling stations operated by the PACS due to arbitrary decision of the union government, the chairman of National Federation of State Cooperative Banks (NAFSCOB) and Telangana State Cooperative Apex Bank (TSCAB) Konduru Ravinder Rao said the Centre took an illogical decision to hike fuel for PACS by Rs 15-20 per litre. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, union Minister for Cooperation Amit Shah and the union Ministry of Petroleum to rethink about the government’s decision on hiked fuel charges for PACS.
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