Millennium Post

Crop loss and farmers’ despair

Madhya Pradesh is currently facing one of the worst crises in history. According to official estimates, standing rabi crops of wheat, gram and masoor in more than 10,000 villages have been either totally or partially damaged by hailstorm and untimely heavy rains that hit large parts of the state in the last week of February. Lakhs of farmers have been ruined and the output of food grains in the state may go down by 50 to 80 per cent, suggest preliminary estimates.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan called an emergency meeting of the council of ministers to discuss the situation. During the meeting, several decisions were taken to provide relief to the farmers on a war footing.

The chief minister said that the government was firmly behind the farmers in their hour of crisis. It was decided to make an immediate provision of Rs 2,000 crore to pay compensation and provide other relief to the farmers. The chief minister said that crops in as many as 9,584 villages in 49 districts of the state had been damaged due to the rain and hailstorm. He urged the Centre to declare this crisis as a national calamity and send teams immediately to assess losses. He also met the President and demanded a package of Rs 5,000 crore for relief and compensation.

He, however, said that the government would not wait for the response of the Central government but would start the process of assessment of damage and payment of compensation from its own coffers immediately.

The damage of over 50 per cent crops would be considered 100 per cent loss while paying compensation. Special packages would be offered for damage between 25 per cent and 50 per cent. Compensation would be paid at the rate of Rs 15,000 per hectare for damaged crops of wheat, pulses and oilseeds and at the rate of Rs 15,000 per acre for loss to fruit and
vegetable crops. Loan recovery from the farmers has already been suspended and interest of loan for the period would be paid by state government. The chief minister has also announced that rice and wheat would be provided to the affected farmers at the rate of Rs one per kg for eight months and financial assistance of Rs 25,000 would be offered for marriage of their daughters. The chief minister asked the officials to ensure that the traditional money lenders do not forcefully recover loans from the farmers and if they do, action should be taken against them.

Chauhan has directed all ministers to monitor relief measures in their respective districts. A committee, comprising agriculture production commissioner, additional chief secretary of finance department and principal secretary of revenue for centralised monitoring of relief amount’s distribution has been set up.

During vedio-conferencing soon after this meeting, chief minister directed divisional commissioners and district collectors to ensure distribution of relief amount immediately to the farmers. He said that senior officers should leave routine administrative work and plunge themselves in the work of
providing relief to farmers. Survey should be undertaken with total transparency for providing immediate relief.

The damage to the crops is so serious that it has sent hundreds of farmers into a state of deep depression. Reports of suicides and attempted suicides by farmers are also reaching Bhopal. It is felt that psychological measures should be taken to enable farmers to overcome the crisis. How serious the situation is can be gauged by the fact that a cabinet minister broke down while reporting the situation to his boss.

The damage to the crops has become a cause of serious worry for the ruling party (BJP). It relief works are not taken on a war footing and quick delivery of relief, both in cash and kind, is not ensured, it might affect the prospects of the ruling party in the coming Lok Sabha elections. The government will also have to ensure that the government servants do not use the calamity to amass wealth. As such, congenial climate for corruption prevails in the state, what with scam after scam revealing that petty government servants are owners of assets running into tens of crores of rupees.

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