FORMALISING THEKA PAYMENT OF AGRI LANDS IN PUNJAB – I
COMPLEXITIES IN SYSTEM OUT OF DECADES OLD PRACTISE
The Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) pre-condition of uploading land records for procurement of wheat at the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP) in Punjab for Rabi season 2021 comes from a hypothesis that all farmers in Punjab who owns and cultivate their own land and all land owners are practicing the farming profession.
This is not true!
There is no one-to-one link between farmer, crop and land. This complexity arises out of decades long practice theka farming, which is totally informal, unrecorded and comprised an unregulated market.
In the month of May every year, absentee land lords in Punjab villages promise to give their land to any known farmer (partially/totally landless) on theka (rent) for one year (May to April). A payment of theka per acre is paid (full or in installments) by farmer to the land owner.
EXACT FIGURES NOT KNOWN
This transaction is mostly in cash and contract is purely based by the word of mouth. This is the reason that there is no official record available on how much land is cultivated on theka in Punjab and how much cash has been transacted is also difficult to find out. Experts generally refer to a data by ‘national sample survey organization’ (NSSO) data which say the number is 24 percent. A section of agricultural experts, however, challenge the number as higher than what NSSO says. So this needs a thorough study to arrive at the exact figure.
FCI should not demand land records for procurement operations. It should demand land rent (Theka) payment receipts. Since there are no receipts today, these should be made compulsory from the month of May, 2021, when land in Punjab villages shall be renewed for theka farming. Once this theka farming is regularized, direct payment to farmer shall become more authentic with little scope for duplicity or fraud. How it should be done is suggested in a separate proposal for preparing a Ticket informing Land Rent Payment Receipt: TILER-PAY.
Once Theka payment market is regularized, it will help in:
· Doubling farmer’s income
· Increase the creditworthiness of landless farmer
· Landless farmer to be eligible for direct benefit transfers
· Curbing the black money circulating in rural economy
· More business for banks
· Greater size of formal rural economy