After her husband's death in 2015, Srilata, 29, has been through an unending struggle to sustain her family. Yadagiri, her husband, was a farmer in Telangana's Yadadri-Bhongir district, about 70 km from state capital Hyderabad. The state government in 2018 acknowledged it as a farmer's death by suicide due to agricultural distress and cleared orders to pay Rs 6 lakh to the family as compensation. Yet they have not got any help so far.
Yadagiri had taken six acres on lease to grow cotton after borewells on their own land failed repeatedly. At the time of his death amid mounting debts, his sons - Vikrant and Sandeep - were just 6 and 7. "Chief Minister KCR had himself promised that he would give the compensation to all families like mine. But we have not got any help. Officials at the Collector office and the MRO (mandal revenue officer) say there is no money. Sir, you have just announced Dalit Bandhu Scheme to give Dalit families Rs 10 lakh each... why are you not able to see our suffering?'' she asks.
Six years ago, the K. Chandrashekar Rao government in Telangana had revised the compensation amount to farmers from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 6 lakh.
Thank you so very much on behalf of Mahesh & Maneesh, and the family https://t.co/z6a8bvoLxc— Uma Sudhir (@umasudhir) September 7, 2021
Activist Kondal of Rythu Swarajya Vedika points out that after the state of Telangana was formed in 2014, claims for compensation were made by the families of nearly 5,600 farmers who died by suicide, out of which 1,600 were certified as "genuine farmer suicides" by a government-appointed three-member panel.
"But only 1,300 got relief. Around 300 families are still chasing officers, but the government says there is no budget. How is that possible?'' he asks.
For the last four years, over 200 families have been making countless visits to local offices. The delay in relief, however, has pushed these families into further misery.
Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao has now promised to act as NDTV brought back the agony of these families into public memory.
Yadadri-Bhongir district has 23 such families.
In Mahbubapeta of Yadagirigutta mandal, Mahesh was 12 and Maneesh was 10 when their mother, who was a farmer, died six years ago by suicide.
Their father Mallaiah has been dealing with mental illness and their grandfather is visually-challenged. Their elderly grandmother worked as a labour and their uncle Krishna struggled to support his own family and that of his brother, without a rupee from the compensation sanctioned by the government. His sister-in-law Santosha's death was acknowledged as a case of farmer's suicide due to debts and distress.
"I have gone to every leader and officer for this. I am very tired and hopeless, and now I have given up. People said you have got the compensation but you're not paying us. We did not get even one rupee. We only have debts that I am repaying," Krishna says.
He, however, ensured that his nephews - Mahesh and Maneesh - did not drop out of school. Mahesh has joined a technical ITI course after class 10 and Maneesh is in Class 9.
Another painful story from the mandal is of Vijaya, who was widowed in 2015 after her husband - Anireddy Narsireddy - ended his life.
Vijaya struggled to educate her two daughters. "I showed the proceed letter of the government and got my daughter married, promising to pay the dowry later. My in-laws said 'she must have got the money and is not telling us'. How come more recent cases have got compensation but not us?"
"I beg of you to help me get (the) funds. Our situation is going from bad to worse because of debts. I am worried for my children, I live for them... there is no one for them other than me," she pleads.
In Vikarabad, in response to an RTI query, about the delay in relief to these families, the state government said the amount was "not issued due to low budget''.
Srilata, along with another widow, recently filed a petition in the High Court, seeking the payment of compensation.
The court asked the government to clear the budget and pay the compensation within three months. "But it has been now six months, we did not get the money. The former collector, we are told, informed the court that funds are not available,'' she says.
When NDTV brought the issue to the attention of KT Rama Rao, he said "this must have been an aberration" and promised to expedite the payment of compensation.
"Budget has never been a constraint. We pay Rs 1,400 crore per annum for the insurance (of farmers). The TRS government is the only government in the world that insures every farmer. And it is not the farmer but the government that pays the entire premium. At least 60,000 farmer families have benefitted. This must have been an aberration. When 39-40 lakh farmers are insured, some 200 farmers is not a big task. I assure you, and NDTV viewers, this discrepancy that has been brought to my notice today will be sorted out," he said.
From the largest numbers of pensions for elderly, widowed and disabled, to farmer assistance scheme (Rythu Bandhu scheme), Telangana spends big on welfare, officials say.
Recently, Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao announced a Dalit Bandhu Scheme where every Dalit family would be paid Rs 10 lakh each. Last month, Rs 2,000 crore was released in Huzurabad, where a bypoll is to take place shortly.