The expanding input cost of paddy will affect small farmers the most. They are the people who await new crop every six months and pin their hopes on it. With no rain coming, their optimism is dwindling.
Only big farmers with fertile land have been able to save their crop. In Chahal, Bhana, Khara, Dhab and some other villages near Kotkapura, the growth of paddy on less fertile land is far from satisfactory. Most of the affected farmers work on less than 5 acres. "They have daughters to be married off, children to be educated, illnesses to treat, and sudden expenses to look after," said Bawinder Aulakh, president of the Lok Chetna Sabha of Aulakh.
Farmer Jaspreet Singh of Koharwala village has spent Rs 1.25 lakh, so far, on diesel to run tractor generator to operate a tube-well for irrigating 40 acres. Small farmers, who can't find so much amount, are poised badly. "I have secured 16 acres on lease," said Pawan Kumar of Bahmanwala village. "I am unlikely to recover my cost."
"The cost of production has cut into the profit of farmers," said Ashok Kumar Goel, secretary of the commission agents' association of Kotkapura. "The farmers who have taken the land on lease will break even barely. Less than 10% of them, who have small holdings and bad subsoil water, will face the severest of impact."
The input cost of paddy is up from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 an acre on account of diesel and other irrigation needs. "Small farmers stand no chance in competition," said Sanjay Mittal, joint secretary of the arhtia association of Kotkapura. "Big farmers can send their children to private schools," said Chamkaur Singh, farmer and school lecturer, "while the poor farmers can't even marry off their daughters, afford to see doctor, or buy tractor."
"Meri khabar na laio, lok akhange ke usda jhona tan vahun wala. Jey aj meeh pai jay tan eh hun vadhia chal pau (do not publish my news, people will say I should run plough over my paddy; if it rains now, it will grow fast)," said a farmer at Bhana who has only 10 acres to till.
"Given the drought-like situation, the farm economy and the growth of paddy will take a beating," said a senior expert at Punjab Agricultural University.