First it was a little known pest ‘white fly’ that wiped out the cotton crop in Malwa belt of Punjab. And now the Parkash Singh Badal administration has given another major back- breaking blow to the farmers by giving Rs 11, Rs 15 and Rs 80 as compensations for the crop loss—a stunningly preposterous financial relief that has sparked off outrage among the farmers of the border state.
The cotton sown across at least 1.36 lakh hectares (30% crop) in six districts--Bathinda, Muktsar, Fazilka, Moga, Faridkot and Ferozepur---of the total 4.5 lakh hectares has been wiped-off by ‘white fly’ pest in what the state government has dubbed as “natural calamity”.
The hopes of Ranjit Singh, a farmer of Chughe Kalan village in Bathinda district, that he would get compensation after repeated and loud assurances of the government, dashed when he received Rs 11 cheque.
In Bathinda district alone there are about 200 farmers like Ranjit Singh who were given compensation below Rs 500. At least 80 farmers hailing from Chughe Kalan village, refused to accept the double digit compensation cheque.
“This self-styled farmer friendly government is rubbing salt on our wounds. I was given Rs 50 cheque which is not equal to the input cost of single stick of cotton plant. What has happened to this government?” Najar Singh, a farmer, said.
Another farmer Sandeep Singh is still in shock ever since a patwari informed him that after calculations his compensation has been pegged at Rs 17 by the administration.
According to the government policy if the damage to crop is 75% the affected farmers will get Rs 8,000 per acre compensation.
When asked about the bureaucratic rationale behind double digit compensation to farmers, Financial Commissioner (Revenue) Karan Avtar Singh shot back: “If the farmer has half marla land, he would be paid for only that as per the norms.”
The stiff-necked bureaucrat further said: “When you (media persons) take picture of the cheque and publish it why don’t you ask the farmer whether he is satisfied or not. We are giving compensation as per government rules. If farmer has one damaged cotton stick, he will be compensated for that. If the farmer has million cotton sticks the compensation will be given accordingly”.
But the fact of the matter is the farmers whom government gave Rs 11 or Rs 17 cheque had sown cotton on minimum 1-acre land in which several hundred cotton sticks are grown and not one.
At the root of this abysmally low compensation is faulty documentation of revenue records.
The operational land holdings are not recorded properly in revenue records and there are multiple shareholders. For example, even a 1-acre land holding is in the name of several persons. Over 60% farmers are actually cultivators and not owners. The compensation is thus divided equally among the actual owner(s) as well as the cultivators. Thus, the compensation amount every individual gets is ridiculously low.