Linking welfare distribution to land records: a case-study of the Rythu Bandhu Scheme (RBS) in Telangana
This March 2020 report, titled Linking welfare distribution to land records: a case-study of the Rythu Bandhu Scheme (RBS) in Telangana, was published by the Finance Research Group of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai. Its authors are Diya Uday and Bhargavi Zaveri (researchers with the Finance Research Group), and Susan Thomas (professor at IGIDR).
The Rythu Bandhu Scheme (RBS) is a direct benefit transfer programme which the government of Telangana introduced in 2018. It involves making payments to farmers bi-annually – before the kharif and rabi crop seasons – for every acre of land that they own. The government of Telangana undertook a state-wide Land Records Updation Programme (LRUP) before implementing the RBS. The authors note that this differentiates RBS from other – central and state – income support schemes linked to land ownership.
The nine-chapter study includes an introduction (chapter 1), a summary of the study’s findings (chapter 2) and its methodology (chapter 3); Telangana’s state and district profiles (chapter 4); an analysis of the LRUP (chapter 5), ‘Land records updation in forest areas’ (chapter 6) and RBS (chapter 7); and the study’s conclusion (chapter 8) and acknowledgements (chapter 9).
The government of Telangana undertook the Land Records Updation Programme in a few districts before extending it to the entire state. The authors note that the state government had consistently focused on land reforms since 2016-17.
The LRUP covered 32 of Telangana’s 33 states and nearly 86 per cent of the state’s area. There were no major disputes on the ownership of agricultural land parcels for nearly 95 per cent of the area covered under the LRUP. About 5.62 per cent of the land parcels were disputed.
The LRUP’s main objective was to issue updated title deeds and ‘pattadar passbooks’ to owners of agricultural land. The programme did not include recording interests from tenancy and mortgages in the deeds and passbooks. This meant that landless and tenant farmers were not included in the revised land records, and did not qualify as beneficiaries of the RBS.
The report cites Farmer Suicides, Land Ownership, Tenant Farmers and Rythu Bandhu, a 2018 study by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, which states that tenant farmers have little access to capital, causing distress and a higher incidence of suicide. The study emphasises the need to extend the RBS to tenant farmers.
As a part of this study, the authors conducted focused group discussions with beneficiaries of RBS and tenant farmers in the villages of Marriguda in Nalgonda district and Shapally in Mulugu district. The discussions found that most respondents were unaware of any grievance redressal mechanism under the RBS.
The study states that excess payments amounting to Rs. 4,603,400 had been made in the villages of Marriguda and Shapally under the RBS, corresponding to 366 acres of land in Marriguda and 31 acres in Shapally village.
In 2018-19, the government of Telangana allocated Rs. 12,000 crores for RBS entitlements at the rate of Rs. 4,000 per acre. The state increased this to Rs. 5,000 per acre in 2019-20, but there was no corresponding increase in the allocation of funds. The study notes that funding too should have increased from Rs. 12,000 crores in 2018-19 to Rs. 15,000 crores in 2019-20.
The RBS did not initially include forest lands. After the rabi season in 2018, the scheme was extended to forest dwellers who have been granted land rights under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
The report mentions the central government’s Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (the PM-Kisan scheme) of 2019, which offers monetary entitlements to families holding agricultural land, and uses state-level land records to identify beneficiaries. However, such records are maintained for land owning individuals – and not families – in most states. Thus, the PM-Kisan scheme cannot use existing land records and state governments have to assimilate information across several databases to identify its beneficiaries. Data from the focused group discussions indicate that people were more satisfied with the RBS than the PM-Kisan scheme.
The report states that updating land records is crucial for efficiently implementing a direct benefits transfer scheme linked to land ownership.
Focus and Factoids by Riya Behl.
Susan Thomas, Diya Uday and Bhargavi Zaveri
Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai