About a year since the hailstorm and subsequent high-vaulted promise of compensation by the state government, hundreds of farmers continue to wait for the succour.
The storm wiped out their hope of paying off private and government-sector debt and keeping the kitchen running. The wheat was ready for harvest in 23 villages of Moga district when rain took a toll on it. The revenue department assessed the loss but there's no word from the government since.
The revenue department skipped doing the survey in some villages; and the places it went, the loss shown was very less. "Patwaris (junior land revenue officials) conducted the study sitting in the houses of sarpanches," said Sukhdev Singh Kokari Kalan, general secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta, Ugrahan). "Favouritism can't be ruled out."
The crop damage was 80-to-90% in Rauli, Talwandi Bhangeriyan and Kapure villages of Moga block. Daroli Bhai, Sosan, Dagru, Jogewala, Nidhan Wala, Rattian, Salina, Dhalle Ke, Attari, Ghall Kalan, Kahan Singh Wala, Sada Singh Wala, Kore Wala Kalan, Kore Wala Khurd, Waddha Ghar, Chhota Ghar, Mahesari, and Baghelewala also were on the revenue department list for compensation.
For every farmer sore because there's no compensation even a year since the survey, scores more are in the no-survey category. "The state government assured us sufficient money in 15 days," said Bansa Singh, a progressive farmer. "Now, it's so long, it won't even remember."
Last year, crop on 250 acres was damaged. "The average loss was 70%," said Harbans Singh Johal, sarpanch of Dhalle Ke village. "Farmers requested the government for gridawari (special revenue survey). Executive magistrate Lakhveer Singh Gill took stock of the loss and sought a report from the revenue department."
It's time to sow wheat again. "Farmers need compensation now," said Davinder Singh Ghali, district president of the Kirti Kisan Union. "The delay in its disbursement will drive farmers to moneylenders and banks."
Surjit Singh, panch of Dhalle Ke, lost crop of 15 acres. "I demanded compensation many, many times," he said. "When the administration didn't listen, I sat home, depressed."
For the farmers' plight, Congress legislator Joginder Pal Jain has blamed the ruling alliance of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party. "The government declared Rs 2,500 per acre as compensation for 26-to-50% damage, Rs 3,750 per acre for 51-to-75% loss; and Rs 5,000 per acre for 76-to-100% loss," he said. "Farmers were unhappy with it. Of even that, they haven't received a rupee."
The revenue department, so far, hasn't received the money for compensation. "I have made the request for the amount," said Kuldeep Singh, executive magistrate and tehsildar of Moga. "I took the matter to the deputy commissioner lately, and tried that the treasury should clear the compensation bills."
The government was serious about compensation, said agriculture minister Tota Singh. “The Congress has lost political ground,” he said, “so its leaders are trying to provoke farmers. Propaganda will not work.”