A special 'girdawari' conducted by the Punjab government to determine the loss of crops due to the recent floods in certain parts of the state strangely does not cover the loss suffered to fruit and other trees planted under the agro-forestry scheme of the government.
While paddy and Basmati growers hope to receive some compensation for the loss of their crop, owners of orchards and poplar plantations will get nothing. The sudden rise in the Ravi waters in early September not only washed away the paddy and Basmati crops lying in its basin, it also affected the poplar plantation in the area.
The worst affected villages were Kasowal, Kasowal Rajia, Saharan and Sharan Rajia, besides Jattan Pashia, all in Ramdass area of Amritsar district. Nearly 4,000 acre of these villages lying between the river and the dhussi bundh got submerged by the Ravi waters, which rose by 17 feet.
Though paddy and Basmati were the main crops affected by the flooding of the Ravi basin, poplar plantations of some farmers also suffered loss. Unfortunately, there will be no compensation for the owners of these plantations.
"The government's policy, which does not ask for compensation for the loss of horticulture crops and agro forestry, ought to be changed. At a time when the government is talking about diversification of crops, such a policy won't pay," stated Maj (retd) Manmohan Singh, a progressive farmer, whose poplar plantation near Jattan Pashia village suffered loss.
Maj Singh has poplar trees spread over 20 acre, of which trees in 15 acre were completely destroyed by the flood. Even three-year-old trees were flattened by the waters and sand deposits.
However, luckily, his litchi orchards have been saved as these are on high ground as compared to the poplar trees.
Other poplar growers who suffered the loss included Madan Lal and Sukhdev Singh, both of Kasowal village.
"Though the number of poplar growers is small, the issue being raised relates to change of the compensation policy for the agro forestry and horticulture," he added.
Manmohan Singh, who owns kinnow, pear and plum orchards near Ajnala, said the 'no compensation rule' also governed fruit trees. He pointed out that in March-April this year, hail stones caused a heavy loss to hard pear orchards near Manawala in Amritsar. He pointed out that the hail stones hit the pear trees when these were in the flowering stage.
Devoid of flowers, these trees will not bear any fruit.
Sand deposits to hit farming
A visit to fields in the Ravi basin near Kasowal shows large heaps of sand piled up in the fields that were once blooming with paddy and Basmati. Sand deposits are also visible in the fields where poplar trees once stood.
Manmohan Singh pointed out that Basantar, a rivulet that falls into the Ravi, brought large quantity of sand and spread over fields.
He used to sow winter moong and wheat between the rows of poplar trees. However, the heaps of sand have made these fields unfit for agriculture.
"It will take two-three years for us to make these fields fit for cultivation. This is another loss that the floods have caused to us," he added.