The farmers of Tamil Nadu have suffered intense damage to crops during the northeast monsoon. Different crops, including paddy, millets, lentils, dal, banana and tapioca in around 5 lakh acres, have been affected.
The compensation of Rs 20,000/hectare for paddy crops ready for harvest and agriculture input subsidy of Rs 6,038/hectare for damages to sowed crops announced by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government has come as a rude shock to the farmers.
While the farmers' associations are protesting against such low compensation announced by the government, the farmers from the delta districts are ineligible for the compensation since the next sowing season has begun.
The farmers' associations have been demanding a compensation of Rs 30,000/acre for all farmers. The All India Kisan Sabha's (AIKS) state unit is holding a statewide demonstration seeking compensation for the extensive damages suffered, but the state government is citing the cap fixed by the union government on providing compensation for crop damages during natural calamities.
EXTENSIVE DAMAGES ACROSS THE STATE
The NEM brought heavy rains all across Tamil Nadu, submerging crops for days together. The damages to tanks and ponds have led to further problems for the farmers, including the stagnation of silt and sand in the farmlands.
Paddy crops, ready for harvest and sown for next season, suffered near-total damage across the state. The AIKS Tamil Nadu state committee claimed that around 5 lakh acres of crops, including paddy, have suffered damages.
"We have demanded Rs 30,000/acre for paddy crops, while the government has announced only Rs 20,000/hectare. The compensation of Rs 8,000/acre is too low since the input costs have increased over the years due to increase in prices of diesel and fertilisers," said P Shanmugam, general secretary of the state AIKS.
The farmers have expressed their dejection over the announcement as a large percentage of the farmers will not be eligible to receive the compensation.
"In most of the districts, the harvesting of paddy is over by last month. The delta farmers have sowed for the next season, which is completely damaged," Shanmugam added.
The delta farmers are staring at a bleak next season since they will not be able to carry out the sowing again.
"Even if the farmers start sowing now, once the Mettur dam is closed by the end of January, the crops have to be managed till March without water, which is impossible," Shanmugam added.
Durai Raj, the Mayiladuthurai district secretary of the AIKS, echoed similar fears on the harvest next season.
"The sowing was over last month for the samba and thaladi crops as the Mettur dam was opened on time this year. The present damage is impossible to revive the next season," he said.
The central team's visit to the damaged areas again received criticism, as the district administrations arranged photo exhibitions of the damage to crops and residential areas.
"The team had to visit the affected areas to understand the actual damages. If they decide only to visit the halls with photo exhibitions, why should they travel all the way from Delhi? The state government can simply send the photos of damages to them." Shanmugam said.
FARMERS URGE STATE GOVT FOR HIGHER COMPENSATION
The farmers affiliated with the AIKS are holding protests in taluk offices against the low compensation announced and compensation for all crops. They have also urged the state government to exert pressure on the union government for a higher allocation of funds.
Shanmugam claimed that the state government is not exerting enough pressure on the union government for higher relief funds.
"The farmers are submitting memoranda to the concerned officials, citing the survey number of the lands with details of damages. To compensate the farmers for the actual damages, the state government needs to be more proactive in their role," he said.
The state government has cited a union government notification of slab on compensation for rainfed and irrigated crops as the low compensation announced.
"But, the state cannot continue to put the blame on the union government alone for this issue. A mechanism, including payment from insurance premium paid by the farmers, should be expedited," Shanmugam said.
Other farmers involved in cultivating tapioca, maise, gram, and dal are left with no option to seek compensation. The state government announcement covers only the paddy growers in the state.
R Ravi, district secretary of the AIKS, said that these farmers would be pushed to higher debts without compensation. "More than 50,000 banana trees and crops in 4000 hectares of lands including tapioca are damaged badly. The state government must provide adequate compensation to these farmers as well," he said.
The member of parliament from Kanyakumari raised the issue of crop damages during the question hour on December 1 and sought relief funds from the centre.
The cattle farmers, who have lost hundreds of cows and goats during the monsoon, also await the government's announcement on compensation.
"Thousands of cattle have died in the incessant rains across the state. The water inundation in several villages for almost a month has led to livelihood issues for such farmers. The state government has not considered the plights of such farmers," Shanmugam said.