A parade of rival politicians, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Union minister of state for agriculture Mohan Bhai Kundaria, descended on Friday on some of the villages worst hit in last week’s unseasonal rain and hailstorm, promising relief to farmers who lost vast amounts of standing crops.
The inclement weather destroyed Rabi crops - mostly wheat, cumin seeds and mustard – in 26 of the state’s 33 districts with some 3,000 villages reporting more than 50% crop loss. At least 12 rain-related deaths were also reported.
The scale of devastation has drawn all-round calls for quick relief. On Friday, Gandhi visited
Darbiji and Morpa villages in Kota district and demanded that the government change the crop compensation norms to provide immediate and adequate relief to the affected.
Ringed by security men, she spoke to some of the villagers who held damaged crops in their hands and spoke of a shortage of foodstuff in Darbiji. Party leader Sachin Pilot also showed her around the devastated fields.
"I have seen the crop loss in the villages and the damage is comprehensive,” she said, adding that her party would push the government to provide immediate relief to the farmers.
"The government has the money and the resources, so the government should provide relief to the farmers.”
Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Congress’ Rajasthan in-charge Gurudas Kamat and former Congress minister Shanti Dhariwal were among other who accompanied Gandhi. There was a brief scuffle between Congress and BJP workers after the latter raised slogans in support of chief minister Vasundhara Raje in the presence of Gandhi.
While the government has said it is still in the process of collating information on crop damage, local reports painted a grim picture of death and devastation from the unseasonal rain and hailstorm.
Several reports mentioned about farmers suffering cardiac arrest after watching their ripe crops wilt under the inclement weather. Unseasonal rains and hailstorm also hit five other states, leading to such damage to crop that it was likely to hit India’s overall farm output this year, the government has said.
Earlier in the day, Kundaria along with a retinue of state politicians, including home minister Gulab Chand Kataria, visited Patliyas and Kumhariya village in Bhilwara, where more than 250 houses and all the wheat crops had been damaged.
Kundaria was told by the villagers that they were yet to get any relief from the government.
“The wheat, vegetable and horticulture crop was completely destroyed,” Rameshwar Jat, an 80-year-old farmer, told the minister. “Apart from agriculture fields, some cowsheds and other makeshift constructions were also broke down in the hailstorm."
Later, Kundaria told reporters: "The state government has already given orders to the district administration to provide relief as per standing orders in this natural calamity.
“The government will soon announce a relief package for hailstorm and unseasonal rain-hit areas after getting inputs from the three special teams visits in four states from Thursday.”
(With Mahesh Agarwal in Bhilwara)