Unseasonal rains, hail damage rabi crops in key food-bowl states
A good yield was expected this year but heavy rains induced by westerly disturbances flattened the wheat crop less than a month before harvest in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.india Updated: Mar 15, 2016 09:15 IST
Heavy rainfall accompanied by hail over the weekend damaged crops in key food-producing states across north and central India, triggering fears of higher food prices amid a deepening nationwide agrarian crisis.
A good crop was a must this season for the sustenance of farmers who suffered because of unseasonal rainfall in March-April last year followed by a drought that reduced output of summer crops. A good yield was expected this year but heavy rains induced by westerly disturbances flattened the wheat crop less than a month before harvest in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
“The damage can be up to 50% in several districts of Haryana, Punjab, northern Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh,” an agriculture ministry official said, adding that state governments had been asked to submit reports.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal ordered divisional commissioner A Anbarasu to assess the damage to crops in the Capital. “Have asked Div Commissioner to assess damage to crops of farmers in Delhi due to unseasonal rains (sic),” Kejriwal tweeted.
The governments of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan also instructed officials to assess the loss.
In 2015, the Centre gave states about Rs 8,000 crore for crop losses due to unseasonal rains.
In Madhya Pradesh, protesting farmers took a tractor trolley full of hailstones to the office of the SDM, Banda in Sagar district and a chakka jam protest was held on NH-86 near Banda on the Sagar-Chatarpur road to draw the administration’s attention towards damage to crops.
In Rohtak, Ram Chander, a Dalit farmer who had taken two acres of land on contract for Rs 25,000, said rain and thunderstorm had almost completely destroyed his wheat crop. “There is not much left,” he said, crying for government help.
Farmer Kundan Lal Jatav of Ghatla village in Rajasthan’s Alwar district said with tears in his eyes that rain and hail ruined his entire mustard crop on seven bighas of land.
The government needs about 62 million tonnes of grains, including wheat and rice, to ensure steady supply of food items under the national food security law. Good crops in 2014 had ensured adequate stocks but crop damage in two consecutive years can exert a burden on the buffer maintained by the Food Corporation of India.
Experts say the government might not have enough buffer stocks to sell in the market to keep wheat prices under check.
Apart from wheat, officials admit, there has been extensive damage to mustard, potato and peas in these states. The showers have withered the flowering of mangoes in Uttar Pradesh and apple, pears and apricots in Himachal Pradesh.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi raised the issue in the Lok Sabha and asked the government to assess the crop damage and provide adequate compensation to the affected farmers.
“After the hailstorm and heavy rains, farmers of northern India are in distress. The government must act to give relief to farmers affected by crop damage,” Gandhi said in the Lok Sabha.
(With inputs from Jaipur, Chandigarh, Bhopal and Meerut)
First Published: Mar 15, 2016 09:04 IST