UP: Unseasonal Rains, Hailstorm Dash Hopes; Farmers Seek Compensation
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Lucknow: Kamta Devi, an elderly farmer in Naraini town of Banda district was left in tears when on Monday morning she rushed to her farm fields to ascertain the damage done by the inclement weather and saw heaps of hail stones.
Kamta, a marginal farmer, after assessing the overnight hailstorm, said she there’s no way she could recover even the input costs, leave alone the hard work that had gone waste.
"First, the cold wave in January was a serious setback for us, but this unseasonal rain and hailstorm seem to be the last nail in the coffin for us farmers. Most of the farmers in my area take loans for agriculture inputs," a distraught Kamta told NewsClick over the phone, adding that had no hope from the government as no official had reached her village yet to assess the loss.
Likewise, Nathini Kumar, another marginal farmer in Lalitpur, is worried about his paddy crop. He said at least half of his crop had been destroyed, and all of it would be lost if the weather doesn't improve in the coming days.
"The heavy rain and severe hailstorm not only destroyed our crops but also brought down the morale of farmers. Suicides rates due to crop failure is high in Bundelkhand region, but the government is least bothered about our plight," he told NewsClick.
According to Kumar, the farming community’s expectations had already been dashed after the Central government dashed its widely anticipated hopes of an increase in income support under the PM-Kisan programme in the Union budget . There was also no provision to give interest-free loans on Kisan Credit Card.
Experts, too, feel that unseasonal rains may spell doom for farmers in the state, especially in the Bundelkhand region.
“The continuous rain and wind had virtually flattened the standing wheat and mustard crops in the agricultural fields across the state, but the damage in Bundelkhand region seems to be widespread and farmers should be compensated," Sudhir Panwar, a zoology professor at Lucknow University, who was also part of the state’s planning commission during the Akhilesh Yadav government, told NewsClick. He said the early varieties of crops were damaged by unseasonal rains, which may lead to dip of 10-15% in wheat production this year in Uttar Pradesh.
According to a preliminary assessment done by the state agriculture department, overall, 15% to 45% of the Rabi crop across the state, may have been affected due to untimely rains and hailstorm.
Meanwhile, various teams from the state revenue and agriculture departments have started visiting the villages to assess the losses.
Ajayab Singh, a farmer in Banda, told NewsClick that “most of the crops of this season -- wheat, mustard, arhar, peas and grams -- were ready to be harvested, but hailstorms and untimely rains have flattened fields. I won’t be able to pay the loan I have taken from money lenders,” he said.
Prem Singh, an agriculture expert in Banda, said around 92% farmers in Bundelkhand region are small and marginal farmers who are dependent on agriculture. "If government does not lend a helping hand to the farmers in this crisis, suicides may increase," he told NewsClick.
Sanjeev Yadav of Etawah, who has a large tract of land under potato and wheat cultivation said the rain had flattened a large portion of crops on his fields. In some areas, the problem of waterlogging led to destruction of crops.
"Usually in Uttar Pradesh, potato is sown in mid-October or early November. It is harvested in the first week of March. The crops grown worth lakhs got mixed in the soil due to rain and thunderstorm,” he told this writer.
Due to unseasonal rains and hailstorm, a snow sleet was seen in Chandauli district, popularly known as the ‘rice bowl’, as per villagers, who claimed they had never seen a view like a hill station before.
“I have not seen such a severe hailstorm in 65 years of my life. Harvesting of two key crops, wheat and mustard, was about to begin in a week or two, but due to rainfall, hailstorm and strong winds, the crops are lying in the barn," Narottam Pandey, a farmer leader in Chandauli, told NewsClick.
Farmers also fear that untimely rains would lead to a rise in fodder prices as grazing areas lie waterlogged.
Meanwhile, the state government has announced financial aid for farmers who suffered at least 33% loss to standing crop, but several farmers are unhappy.
"The parameter/standard set by the government will prevent most of the farmers from getting compensation. Besides, the government has only included only six districts, and in Sonbhadra and many other districts are not included," Rajesh, a farmer leader, told NewsClick.
MANGO GROWERS SUFFER LOSS
With 2.64 lakh hectares in Uttar Pradesh under mango cultivation, the state produces, on an average, 45 lakh tonnes of the fruit annually. The bumper flowering (80%) of trees in February had brought cheer to the growers in Malihabad, but the recent widespread hailstorm has dashed their hopes.
Haji Kaleemullah Khan, known as the ‘Mango Man’, told NewsClick: "Mango crops are a very weather-sensitive, especially during the flowering stage, which is the first stage. March and April are crucial, as those are flowering months and good flowering leads to a good crop. Therefore, at this particular time, the weather conditions matter a lot. But unseasonal rain and hailstorm over the past few days have badly damaged flowers, and its effect will be visible on the yield."
Insram Ali, president of the Mango Grower Association of India, said:
"This time there was less disease in the mango crop and we were expecting a good produce. But baby mangoes (tikole) and flowers dropped from the trees in huge quantities”, adding that the government never considered mango growers as farmers. Therefore, it has never given a rupee of compensation despite growers suffering huge losses.
Other mango growers in Malihabad also apprehended that inclement weather conditions lashing the region for the past few could lead to a sharp decline in productivity.
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