Pest attack has killed crops and hopes of 41 lakh farmers in Maharashtra

Cotton crop devastated by pink bollworm attack, the worse outbreak since genetically modified seed technology has been adopted
Usha Pandey, 39, a farmer from Amravati district of Vidarbha, has been left with just one-third of her average cotton yield from her two-acre field, which was attacked by pink bollworm. She has suffered a loss of ₹25,000.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
Usha Pandey, 39, a farmer from Amravati district of Vidarbha, has been left with just one-third of her average cotton yield from her two-acre field, which was attacked by pink bollworm. She has suffered a loss of ₹25,000.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)
Updated on Feb 14, 2018 01:30 PM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | ByKetaki Ghoge and Surendra Gangan, Amravati/aurangabad

As many as 41 lakh farmers in Maharashtra, from the agrarian-distressed regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha, began the new year with loss and misery.

This was more than evident in December last year, when it became clear that the state’s cotton crop had been devastated by a pink bollworm attack, the worse such outbreak since the state adopted BT or genetically modified (GM) seed technology in 2002.

Hindustan Times will carry a five part series starting Wednesday, on the plight of the cotton farmers to highlight the human faces behind this disaster, besides examining the reach of the state government in tackling this crisis and the role of other stakeholders.

Information collected on the ground by the divisional commissioner’s offices in Nagpur, Amravati and Aurangabad and reported to the state government in January ( accessed by HT), revealed the extent of the damage. The pink bollworm pest affected 32 lakh hectares of cotton-sown land in these two regions. Nearly 14.91 lakh hectares of such land in Vidarbha and 17.25 lakh hectares in Marathwada was destroyed in the outbreak.

Nearly 41 lakh farmers — 26.90 lakh from Marathwada and 14.16 lakh from Vidarbha — who cultivated cotton, suffered more than 33% losses in this outbreak.

This also means that on an average, two crore people living in rural areas and dependent on these 41 lakh farmers, are staring at a year with a substantially slashed or no farm income until the kharif harvest in 2018. The attack poses several challenges for both the distraught farmers as well as the ruling government.

Farmers face an uphill task to get access to credit for the next kharif season. Several farming families will have to sacrifice their children’s education or a wedding until the tide turns.

The government will have to deliver on its promised compensation of Rs30,800 a hectare, besides planning a road map ahead, with pink bollworm now proven to be resistant to BT cotton (It is used by more than 96% of state’s farmers).

This is no mean task, given that seed companies are unwilling to fork out damages to farmers as proposed by the state and want the technology provider to be held responsible for the loss.

“This pest attack is unprecedented and we are looking at a year of agrarian misery for the cotton farmers. The situation is bleak, especially for rain-fed farmers, who count on cotton as their main cash crop and the only crop in many cases. This will lead to a spurt in farmer suicides and I will hold the government responsible unless it delivers on the promised compensation,’’ said Kishore Tiwari, chairman of the Vasantrao naik Shetkari Swavlamban Mission. The mission was set up to recommend suggestions to improve the lot of farmers in the 14 suicide-prone districts in these two regions.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • A view of Dhan Mill Compound at 100 Feet Road, Chhatarpur, in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Amal KS/Hindustan Times)

    Delhi: From a granary to creative business street

    For the uninitiated, Dhan Mill Compound, a former granary and a cluster of warehouses, has morphed into the city’s modish food, fashion, design and lifestyle destination. Its streets are lined with art cafes, home décor outlets, ateliers, art galleries, pottery studios, dance halls and high-end boutiques, whose facades and interiors are as interesting and experimental as the wares they deal in. Interestingly, all of these fancy establishments are housed in re-purposed warehouse buildings, which still have metal roofs.

  • Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. (Twitter/@AAPDelhi)

    Over a million got jobs on Rozgar Bazaar: Delhi govt

    According to a Delhi government official, a break-up of the total jobs, including the list of employers and the number of people they hired, will be shared “in a couple of days”. Notably, the government portal was launched by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on July 27, 2020, to help entry-level and blue-collar job seekers connect with employers at a time when the Covid-19 induced lockdown left many people unemployed.

  • Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai. (ANI)

    Govt to urge Centre to reduce tax for SUP options: Delhi minister

    “Manufactures, and start-ups which are working on alternatives to single-use plastic have to pay more GST for raw material. Hence, the Delhi government will write to the Centre and request a reduction in GST rates,” Delhi environment minister Gopal Rai said.

  • A view of Humayun's Tomb on a rainy day in New Delhi, India, on Sunday, July 3, 2022. (Photo by Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times)

    Delhi weather: Yellow alert issued till Tuesday

    Safdarjung, Delhi’s base weather station, recorded 0.1mm of rainfall between 8:30am and 5:30pm on Sunday. The Capital recorded 1.9mm of rainfall on Saturday and 117.2mm on Friday, making the monthly total 119.2mm so far. The normal monthly average for July is 210.6mm, said weather experts.

  • Monsoon turns Hauz Khas monument into an archipelago of stony islands.

    Delhiwale: Six shades of monsoon

    Monsoon elevates Adam Khan’s tomb into an emergency sanctuary for passersby (and dogs) speared by sudden showers. Perched atop a Mehrauli hillock, the monument overlooks the Qutub Minar, which appears totally bechara and defenceless in the heavy rain.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Monday, July 04, 2022