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Millibug virus may eat into BJP votes

The drop in productivity in Surendranagar’s cotton farms has been due to a millibug virus, which has affected most of the districts roadside farms, reports Zeeshan Shaikh.

india Updated: Dec 10, 2007 00:07 IST
Zeeshan Shaikh
Zeeshan Shaikh
Hindustan Times

I think I will stop farming and head back to Surat to work as a diamond cutter. This government seems to be only concerned about big industries and not marginal farmers,” says Shursingh Sihara, 35, as he harvests what remains of his millibug-infested cotton crop at Muli village in Surendranagar district.

Sihara has seen his 10 acre farm’s productivity dip from 1,400 kg last year to 800 kg this year. The drop in productivity in Surendranagar’s cotton farms has been due to a millibug virus, which has affected most of the districts roadside farms.

The millibug attack is also likely to affect the BJP’s prospect in the district as the farmers are increasingly getting agitated about the government’s inability to bail them out of their problems.

“The productivity of the district’s cotton farms has come down by 50 per cent this year due to the millibug virus attack, which followed the heavy rainfall in July. Nearly 30,000 farms were affected and their crops destroyed due to the floods. However the government has still not provided compensation to a single farmer,” says Rajubhai Trivedi, from Wadhwan who owns 50 acres.

Once a BJP bastion, the party is slowly loosing its grip on the cotton farmers and the district — the BJP controls three of the six constituencies. The party is also facing rebellion where one of its sitting MLAs has decided to fight as an Independent after being denied a ticket. “The present leadership is more concerned about industrialists than farmers.

We are fighting so that farmers rights are not trampled,” says two-time BJP MLA Dhanraj Kela, fighting as an

Surendranagar has 4.12 lakh hectares under Cotton cultivation. A majority of the cultivators rely on the rain as their source of water supply. The government has built check dams to propagate irrigation farming in an area where there is a shortage of farms. However, increasing number of farmers are turning away from irrigation farming to traditional methods.

“The government has assured us of getting water from Narmada dam and built check dams but nothing has materialised so far,” says Trivedi.
Because of this, the total area of cotton farms cultivated only through rainwater has increased.

“In 2006, 2.41 lakh hectares of land was cultivated through rain water, this year the number has increased to 3.31 lakh hectares,” says Surendranagar's District Planning Officer PR Shah.

Farmers say the reason is the inability of the government to provide irrigation facilities the farms.

“Surendranagar is seen as the gateway to Saurashtra. With their treatment of farmers the present BJP leadership is doing everything possible to shut that gate for itself,” says Kela.