Harpal Singh, a farmer who owns 1.25-acre land, invested Rs 16,000 on his cotton crop and was expecting to earn a profit of Rs 26,000 at the end of the season. However, his entire crop was damaged due to the whitefly attack, and all that he got from the Punjab government was a cheque for Rs 80 as compensation.
According to the government’s policy, he was supposed to be given Rs 10,000 for 100% crop loss on 1.25 acres.
The Punjab government’s faux pas in the form of meagre compensation to farmers has not only raised doubts over the criteria followed by the authorities concerned in assessing the losses but also exposed their inability in understanding the simple logistics involved from sowing to harvesting of the crop.
However, had all gone well, Harpal might have reaped a profit that would have helped him prepare for the next crop and use some of the money for his family of five.
“The government should have given me at least the invested amount so that I could have used it to make arrangements for sowing wheat,” he said.
“With this amount, one cannot buy even a packet of seeds,” he said.
On the basis of the ‘girdawari’ done by the revenue department, the state government has started compensating only those farmers who uprooted their crop following the severe pest attack.
The investment increased this time as farmers had to spend at least Rs 2,000-3,000 extra on purchasing pesticides to combat the whitefly attack.
Kesar Singh Bhangoo, an agriculture economist at Punjabi University, Patiala, said the state authorities needed to understand farm economics as the flawed and traditional system of ‘girdawari’ could not properly assess the crop loss.
“Not giving adequate compensation to a farmer amounts to an act of criminality. A farmer who was expecting profit in thousands was given just Rs 80 for his efforts,” Bhangoo rued.
He added, “On the basis of the ground report, a farmer should be given an amount at least equal to the profit he was expecting to make after harvesting the crop.”