Ankush Chande had come to the block development office in his tehsil city Baglan in Nashik district to request for the expedition of panchanama-related work in his area. The hailstorm on Monday and Tuesday in Nashik and Dhule districts had washed out the onion crop from Ankush’s farm.
Officials from the revenue department visit the affected area and check on damages. They make a note of it with witnesses’ corroboration which is called a panchanama. “If they (government officers) are done with the panchanama at the earliest then my insurance claim will be expedited. I need the money urgently as I have lost all of my crops,” said Ankush.
The hailstorm over Monday and Tuesday has badly damaged the summer onion, grapes, and pomegranate crop in north Maharashtra. Parts of Nashik and Dhule have suffered major damage. The two districts are known for onion production in India. The summer onion was scheduled to be plucked by the end of this month. However, the hailstorm and unseasonal rainfall have destroyed the crop.
As per the Baglan tehsil office, a primary estimate of losses is huge. Summer onion crop has been destroyed in 4,020 hectares affecting 4,878 families. Vegetables grown over 42 hectares have been laid to waste affecting 78 families while damage to the wheat crop in 70 hectares will set back 128 families.
In the nearby Niphad tehsil, the situation is as bad as it was in Baglan. Grapes and the sugarcane crop have been severely affected by the hailstorm. According to senior journalist Prashant Bairagi, who hails from the area, farmers have suffered heavy losses. “A hailstorm washes out the crop and damages farm land. Farmers need to make their land cultivable again. They will need money immediately else their Kharif crop will also be affected,” said Bairagi.
Shankar Bhingarde, a 63-year-old farmer, had grown onions in two and half acres of farm land and sugarcane in two acres. He was planning on re-building his house this year. “I thought I would get at least one lakh rupees from the onions (by end of April) and three to four lakhs from the sugarcane by the end of this year. It would have helped me build my house again. But nothing can be done now,” he said.
The Maharashtra government is busy countering a concerning spike in COVID-19 cases in the state as well looking at administrative problems. Meanwhile, the local and national media is keeping itself busy talking about sensational topics like officers’ letters. The plight of Nashik and Dhule’s farmers rarely gets any space in the media.
Newsclick spoke to Nashik’s Guardian Minister Chhagan Bhujbal to ask about government help to the farmers. “The panchanama work is ongoing. I have spoken to the agriculture minister as well as the relief minister. By the end of next week we will finish panchanama work and start distributing primary monetary help as relief,” he said.