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Seed of (firms’) doubt: Farmers await pest attack compensation

Pink bollworm hit cotton crop on more than 42 lakh hectares belonging to more than 40 lakh farmers in Maharashtra.

mumbai Updated: May 18, 2019 06:37 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Surendra P Gangan
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
agrarian distress,cotton,maharashtra
The companies claim the pest attack was owing to the failure of the farmers to follow the protocol while using the seeds. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Farmers’ wait for 2017-18 pink bollworm attack compensation is set to get longer.

Pink bollworm hit cotton crop on more than 42 lakh hectares belonging to more than 40 lakh farmers in Maharashtra. The state, however, received complaints only from 15.09 lakh farmers over loss on 7.99 lakh hectares under cotton cultivation in 23 districts. The government announced a compensation of ₹30,800 a hectare, of which ₹16,000 was to be paid by the seeds companies, according to the provisions of the Maharashtra Cotton Seeds Act. Based on the hearing of the district committees, the state concluded that the companies had to pay ₹1,880 crore towards compensation. Fourteen companies, however, have moved the Bombay high court (HC) against the order, blaming farmers as well as raising doubts over state’s estimates.

Result: Orders for compensation of ₹1,129 crore have been issued, but they are stuck owing to the HC stay.

According to the government, Jalgaon is the worst hit (produce worth ₹501 crore destroyed), followed by Aurangabad (loss worth ₹187 crore), Buldhana (loss worth ₹160 crore)
and Amravati (₹145 crore) districts.

“The court has stayed our orders after the companies moved court. Some of the companies have claimed that we have not followed the due process. We are now submitting an affidavit in court. We expect the court to decide the cases at the earliest, so we can compensate. In earlier instances, our compensation orders were upheld by courts,” said Vijay Ingale, director, inputs and quality control, agriculture commissionerate.

The companies claim the pest attack was owing to the failure of the farmers to follow the protocol while using the seeds.

“Our seeds were resistant to the pest attack. The farmers fail to follow instructions such as sowing of refuge, spraying of pesticides in timely manner and uprooting plants in January every year. Also, the state machinery has not followed due process while ascertaining the losses,” said Ajit Mulay, president, Seeds Industry Association of Maharashtra.

Of the ₹30,800, ₹6,800 was from the National Disaster Relief Fund and ₹8,000 from crop insurance firms. The state government has paid the NDRF share of more than ₹3,500 crore from its kitty, but has failed to get crop insurance owing to stringent norms.

Vijay Jawandhia, farm expert from Vidarbha, said, “The government should pay the promised compensation, if the claims are stuck in the litigation. They can always recover it from the companies after the claims are settled.”

First Published: May 18, 2019 06:37 IST