Drought to deluge: Punjab suffers monsoon pangs

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2014 11:42 IST

The Punjab government is in a catch-22 situation. When it has already sought a central package to compensate farmers for drought in the current kharif season, the flooding of fields due to heavy rain in the past week has damaged maize and other crops.

Now, the state government is contemplating a special package from the Centre to compensate the crop losses due to heavy rain since September 1. The cotton crop sown over an area of 4.5 lakh hectares in the south-western Punjab and the maize crop on 1.75 lakh hectares have been damaged. Agriculture minister Tota Singh said a girdawari has been ordered to assess the losses.

Already, the state government has sent a demand for Rs 2,330 crore to compensate paddy growers who suffered losses owing to lack of rain at the time of sowing, transplantation and ripening of paddy crop.

Farmers have borne additional cost of Rs 4,000 to 5,000 per acre for expenditure on diesel to pump out extra water to irrigate fields in the absence of rains.

Overall, Punjab recorded 59% deficit in rainfall till August 31 and suddenly in the past eight days – from September 1, the rain recorded is 10 times more than the corresponding period the previous year. Around 54 mm of rain has been recorded this month.

Agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu told HT that as per a preliminary report from the field, in Mansa district, 2,400 hectares of cotton had suffered 20% to 25% damage, and about 2,300 hectares of paddy was reported damaged. He said that in Gurdaspur, 200 hectares of maize and 2,300 hectares of paddy had been damaged due to torrential rains in the past week.

“In Fazilka, large portions of 40,000 hectares of cotton fields and about 25% of 30,000 hectares of paddy were found damaged. In Muktsar, cotton on 10,000 hectares and paddy on 5,000 hectares suffered damage,” Sandhu said. The state’s political machinery is already criticising the central drought relief in hushed tones.

After chief minister Parkash Singh Badal repeatedly visited the central ministers demanding a relief package of Rs 2,330 crore, the state could barely manage Rs 73 crore. It demanded Rs 700 crore to re-dig around 85,000 tubewells that might have become redundant due to excessive withdrawing of subsoil water for irrigation.

The Centre has promised to compensate farmers who own up to 2 hectare (about 5 acre) land with Rs 1,050 per hectare (Rs 420 per acre) as subsidy on extra diesel used to run the tubewells.

Tota Singh said the Centre was aware that Punjab was a major contributor to the national pool of foodgrains and that its farmers deserved better compensation. Sandhu accepted that as Punjab could not seek a package for drought due to adequate availability of subsoil water, it could only seek the cost of digging out additional water to irrigate crops during drought. “The criterion for compensating losses due to drought and floods is the same throughout the country,” he said, but Tota Singh rejected the “uniform” formula. “How can farm land fetching per crop per acre lease amount of Rs 40,000 be compared to a land fetching Rs 10,000 lease amount,” asked Tota Singh, comparing Punjab with other states.

He said, “Our CM is dynamic. He will make a few visits to the union ministers and make them accept our demand for higher compensation for drought. After the girdawari report, we will send a demand for compensation for damage to cotton and maize crops due to excessive rain.”

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