Rain wreaks havoc for Haryana farmers; experts say government must focus on long-term strategies
Surender’s agricultural land is among the numerous farm lands destroyed because of the monsoon. Rains have wreaked havoc in many parts of Haryana, destroying paddy, bajra and cotton fields.
Former Agriculture Secretary and Promoter of Arcus Policy Research, Siraj Hussain speaks to The Probe
If reports are to be believed, at least 15 lakh acres of standing crops have been damaged in Haryana. “We were about to harvest these standing crops when the rains played spoilsport. We have been facing this issue at least twice a year, which has worsened this time. If we are not given relief, very soon you will hear more cases of farmers committing suicide in Haryana,” asserts Surender.
The fluctuating weather extremes and the impact of climate change have been pushing thousands of farmers across India to the wall. According to the latest NCRB data, 5,563 agricultural labourers committed suicide last year. The report states that the number of people killing themselves in the sector increased in 2021 compared to the previous years. Amongst the suicides, the highest numbers were reported in Maharashtra (1,424 cases), followed by Karnataka (999 cases) and Andhra Pradesh (584 cases).
In August, Minister of State for Finance Dr Bhagwat Karad said in the Parliament that banks wrote off loans worth 10 lakh crores in the last five financial years. However, during 2021-22. The write-off amount was significantly reduced to 1,57,096 crores compared to the previous years’ amount of 2,02,781 crore.
In 2016, the government of India introduced the ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana to provide a comprehensive insurance cover against the failure of crops. Farmers like Surender claim the scheme does not work on the ground as envisaged. “If there is damage, even when you receive money from the insurance policy, we have found that the government keeps a portion of the money with them. Our insurance also gets cancelled automatically. The body which makes policy for the farmers is more concerned about the government than the farmers.”
Not just farmers in Haryana, in Himachal Pradesh, apple growers have been out on the streets for many weeks. The farmers claim that the cost of production has increased and so has the GST on cartons, but they are not getting proper dues for their produce.
“The farmers are demanding a shield from fluctuation in prices. Many times, the prices fluctuate so much, and they fall to such a level that farming becomes unprofitable. The farmers in Himachal Pradesh have been agitating. They have been saying that the corporates have been fixing up the prices of apples as they have set up several climate control cold storages. The farmers have been saying that the price is very low. We need long-term solutions for all issues and a comprehensive action plan,” says Hussain.
Dr Kutty feels it is time the government recognises that climate change is a farming reality and it must be addressed. “Climate change must be combated by developing climate-resilient varieties of crops using technology. Whatever crop variety we have today threatens a particular climatic situation. Now, when the climate changes, suppose the temperature goes up, we should have a heat tolerant variety. Similarly, we should have a flood-tolerant crop variety during excessive rainfall. We may have to develop new varieties to withstand high temperatures, and we have to change our strategies.”
While the farmers and the opposition have been pushing for radical reforms related to crop insurance and compensation, Neeraj says this cannot be the only solution for India.
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