Jharkhand’s drought-hit farmers survive on boiled grass meal
Drought-hit farmers in Jharkhand’s Lohardaga district have begun to sell cattle to pay off their loan and eat boiled grass to stay alive in the absence of a bailout package from the state government.
State agriculture minister Randhir Singh said the compensation to the farmers could only be decided after a crop damage assessment by a central government team had been done. “We submitted a drought report to the centre on November 6. We are expecting the visit of a central team very soon,” he said.
The crop yields this year have been hit badly in the district owing to a poor monsoon.
A report of the state agriculture department says that 64 blocks of the state have suffered 50% loss in crops and another 62 blocks have suffered 40% loss due to poor monsoon.
Lakchu Ram, 55, has a family of six to feed. But his farm field on a 10 kattha (7260 sq feet) land in Kisko block has not produced even a quarter of the expected annual yield of paddy. A major portion of the paddy, he claimed, is not sellable or edible due to its poor quality, and his family is left to fetch for alternative foods to satisfy their hunger or at least suppress it.
“On an average we produced 10 sacks (around 250kg) paddy every year. This time, the yield is not even three sacks,” he said.
“We eat boiled Saronchi (a locally available grass) in this crisis,” he said. Saronchi is a locally-available wild grass which may not find a mention in the list of edible weeds, but it is considered high in fibre and vitamins by the local farmers here.
Around five kilometres from Ram’s village, Modassir Ansari, a farmer who makes money by selling paddy in the market, struggled to find an area in his field which wasn’t dry.
“The government isn’t doing anything for us. Neither have we received any subsidy in seeds and fertilizers, nor any aid to combat the drought-like situation,” he said.
In place of the usual 80 sacks of paddy, Ansari has been able to get only eight sacks from his field, he said.
Jagat Ram, another farmer from the district, has already sold three of his five cattle to repay the loan he had taken from private lenders for the sowing season. “By now, I have sold three bulls to repay the loan I had taken,” Ram said.
He has a family of five, and the sale of bulls got him around `50,000, but the loan amount was in lakhs, he said. His family eats grass species “Nakore” and “Garundi” that grow in the wild. They have a soothing effect on the stomach, he said.