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Maharashtra unlikely to deliver relief promised to cotton farmers hit by pest attack, say officials

After a huge uproar over the loss to the standing crop, in the winter session of the state legislature, agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar had announced a relief package for the calamity-hit farmers.

mumbai Updated: Jan 14, 2018 22:41 IST
Surendra Gangan
Surendra Gangan
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,Maharashtra news,pink bollworm attack
Cotton farmers in Maharashtra were hit by a pink bollworm attack that reportedly affected one crore quintal of cotton. (HT File)

Although the state government announced a compensation of Rs30,800 per hectare to cotton farmers hit by the pink bollworm attack, agriculture department officials and experts have called the move an eye wash, claiming the cotton growers are now unlikely to get even half the compensation.

After a huge uproar over the loss to the standing crop, in the winter session of the state legislature, agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar had announced a relief package for the calamity-hit farmers. The state estimates that 34.39 lakh hectares of the total 41 lakh-hectare area under cultivation, in more than 20 districts of the state, was affected by the attack.

The package comprises insurance cover of Rs8,000 per hectare, a compensation of Rs6,800 per hectare under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and Rs16,000 per hectare out of the recovery from the seed companies.

“The state has sought the Centre’s help for Rs2,430 crore under the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF), but the Centre never approves 100% of the demand. In that case, the state would not be able to compensate the farmers the contribution announced under the fund. It has also said it will compensate Rs8,000 per hectare under insurance cover, but most of the farmers are unlikely to be eligible as their first two pickings have registered excessive produce,’’ said a senior official.

Farmers are eligible for insurance only if the loss is for more than 30% of the total yield and in many cases the farmers have produced more than 70% yield. Similarly, the recovery from seed companies under the Maharashtra Cotton Seeds Act, 2009 ,owing to the failure of seeds is difficult. “Companies have moved the court against our claims of Rs1.51 crore in 2015 and Rs34 lakh in 2016 on technical grounds. This time the claim is higher and the companies are unlikely to concede,” he said.

Farm expert Vijay Jawandhia pointed out, “Losses are being calculated for insurance cover at the block level, which means no actual losses are being ascertained. Moreover, seed companies never accept the failure of their seeds. They have already put the blame on the company to which they pay royalty for the BT seeds.’’ He said that farmers have sustained losses of 1 crore quintals of cotton this year. “We have received 10 lakh applications for the compensation. Once the surveys are completed, in 15 days we will ascertain the compensation under the NDRF and insurance. The process of recovery from the seed companies has already begun. We will compensate maximum percentage of the amount declared,” said Fundkar.

First Published: Jan 14, 2018 22:41 IST