For farmers, it's pouring trouble from both over and under.
The monsoon clouds that showered blessing over some areas of Punjab in the last week are yet to hit Moga. Desperate to save paddy, growers in some parts of the district risked using contaminated groundwater for irrigation and ended up ruining the crop. Farmers in Menian and Lopo villages have started running plough over their standing yield, for in the absence of canal water and rain, they have run out of hope.
In the past two weeks, paddy growers in Moga have put a heavy dose of gypsum and sulfur fertilisers into the soil to save their crop, and even organised chhabeels (community distribution of sweet water) to please rain gods. Seeing the damage beyond repair and sensing that the chemicals inputs and the diesel-run motors (to draw groundwater) have only jacked up the input cost, their morale is shattered.
On Sunday, Hardev Singh of Meenian village ran a plough over his rice crop on 4 acres. "I had planted Pussa-44 rice, but when after a month, it did not grow, I uprooted it, and with it, was gone my Rs 28,000 investment." Harpal Singh, another farmer from the same village, tried groundwater for irrigation, with disastrous results. "Four months ago, when my father secured the 4-acre farm on a year's lease for Rs 35,500 an acre, we though it would change the family's fate," said Harpal. "It did, but not in a way we expected."
Harpal put sulfur and gypsum worth about Rs 7,000 over each acre of land, and least expected any damage from groundwater. At Lopo village, sarpanch Harjit Singh confirmed that more than 10 farmers were ready to run plough over paddy spoiled by contaminated groundwater. Farmer Gurcharan Singh saw none of the paddy plants over his 6 acres gain height. "Only in a month, my family spent Rs 32,000 on paddy planting and fertiliser input," he said. "I will crush my standing crop in another two days."
Last year, Gurcharan Singh had spent Rs 2 lakh on boring a tube-well. This year, he closed it because the water from it is unfit for crop. Some pesticide dealers advised farmer Jaspal Singh of Meenian to try different chemical sprays to boost yield. "It cost me Rs 3,500 an acre," he said, "without any benefit."
Farmers can get groundwater checked free-of-cost at the government laboratory, agriculture development officer (ADO) Jaswinder Singh Brar has said. "The department also has soil- and water-testing mobile units," he added. "Our officials go to various villages and educated farmers about this facility. Farmers should go to the agriculture department and not pesticide dealers. Dealer who mislead farmers will face severe punishment."
The agriculture department had a target of testing 5,000 samples of soil and water from 10 villages.