On February 15, the Telangana State Cooperative Election Authority will be conducting elections for Primary Agricultural Cooperative Credit Societies (PACS) and Farmers Service Cooperatives. While elections have been due for two years now, nearly fourteen lakh voters have been denied their right to vote in or contest the elections for defaulting on loan repayments.
Of the 32,99,088 voters in 905 PACS across the state, 13,98,257 voters have reportedly lost their rights to vote or contest due to non-repayment of dues. As a result, the number of voters has come down by a substantial margin of 43% to 19,00,831.
Aside from distress, another reason for lakhs of farmers not paying back loan dues is that they have been awaiting loan waivers as promised by the the State Government said Sagar, Telangana secretary, All India Kisan Sabha. Speaking to NewsClick, Sagar said that the ruling party is focused on “only winning the PACS elections by nominating its candidates. But, in the last six years of their regime, the government has neglected the crucial institutions of the agriculture sector despite farmers’ organisations demanding the government to strengthen the farmers’ cooperative societies.”
He added that most of the farmers’ who have goodwill among community members and a reputation for organisation have lost their voting and contesting rights, mentioning that the government had not even consulted them before calling for the elections.
The State Cooperatives Act, 1964, mandates rules with regard to the membership rights of cooperative societies.
The previous PACS elections were held in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh in two phases during 2012 and 2013. While the term of the then elected members ended in February 2018, the State Government has been delaying the elections.
While notifying the elections, the Additional Registrar of State Cooperative Election Authority stated that the initiative follows the government’s request to the authority to conduct elections to constitute the managing committees of the PACs and Farmers Service Cooperatives.
According to local reports, alongside the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), opposition parties including Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and left parties have fielded their supporting candidates.
The TRS has been on a winning spree since it came back to power in December 2018. In the recently concluded municipal elections, the ruling party won 112 out of 120 municipalities and seven of nine municipal corporations.