What's fail­ing farm­ers

More than er­ratic weather, farm­ers find the gov­ern­ment's re­lief and com­pen­sa­tion mech­a­nism sti­fling

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

Af­ter sav­ing Kishori Pra­jap­ati from com­mit­ting sui­cide, the res­i­dents of Ma­jhguan Kalan vil­lage did some­thing unimag­in­able. Liv­ing in the drought­prone re­gion of Bun­delk­hand, they knew it very well how dif­fi­cult it is to get com­pen­sa­tion for crop dam­ages. They knew the of­fi­cials would not visit the vil­lage to as­sess the loss. So the next day, when they dis­cov­ered the hails were still in­tact in the fields, they heaped those in a trac­tor trol­ley and marched to the dis­trict head­quar­ters of Ch­hatarpur.It had an im­pact. Three days later the pat­wari, or vil­lage ac­coun­tant, reached the vil­lage with his team. When Down To Earth vis­ited the tehsil of­fice in the last week of April, of­fi­cials were dis­burs­ing com­pen­sa­tion to af­fected farm­ers of Ma­jhguan Kalan and Jait­pur—the only two vil­lages in Ch­hat­a­pur that were hit by the freak hail­storm of March 30. Yet a sense of be­trayal was pal­pa­ble among the farm­ers.

While rea­sons for such freak weather are rid­dled with me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal mys­ter­ies, the ways in which the gov­ern­ment cal­cu­lates the dam­age and dis­burses com­pen­sa­tion are not sim­ple ei­ther.

As per the dam­age re­port pre­pared by the pat­wari of Ch­hatarpur, 128 of the 294 farm­ers in Ma­jhguan Kalan faced over 50 per cent crop loss; 55 suf­fered crop loss be­tween 25 and 50 per cent; and the re­main­ing 111 suf­fered less than 25 per cent loss. As per the state gov­ern­ment norms, small farm­ers (own­ing less than two ha) who faced 50 per cent crop dam­age would re­ceive 15,000 per ha, while big farm­ers (who own more than two ha) would get

11,000 per ha. Those who lost 25 to 50 per cent of crops would re­ceive be­tween 9,000 and 6,500 per ha, depend­ing on the farm size. Those who lost 25 per cent crop are not el­i­gi­ble for com­pen­sa­tion.

Farm­ers in Ma­jhguan Kalan, how­ever, claim that most fam­i­lies in the vil­lage lost 70 to 90 per cent of the crop, and com­plain that leav­ing out 111 fam­i­lies with­out any com­pen­sa­tion is un­fair. “The en­tire vil­lage was cov­ered with hails. So how could the dam­age be dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent farms,” asks Ar­jun Kush­waha, a farmer.

Farm­ers also com­plain that the com­pen­sa­tion is mea­gre.On an av­er­age, a farmer in Ma­jhguan Kalan har­vests 3,500 kg of wheat from a hectare. Selling the pro­duce at the min­i­mum 1,200 per 100 kg, he would earn 42,000.Yet the max­i­mum com­pen­sa­tion they re­ceive is 15,000 per ha, or 70 per cent less than the mar­ket value of the crop lost.

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