Ripening rabi crops have been hit by untimely rains and hailstorms in northern parts of the country affecting farmers adversely. This calls for Government intervention to compensate the loss, writes Vivek Srivastava
Unseasonal rains and hailstorm have once again hit the farmers badly. It has damaged rabi crops in parts of Northern and Western India. Damage to rabi crops like mustard and wheat has been reported from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra.
Maharashtra saw unseasonal rains in early March this year. These rains damaged crops like wheat, chickpeas, and oranges in districts like Warda, Nagpur and Amravati districts. As many as 264 villages have been severely affected in Madhya Pradesh alone.
Same is the case in other states and it is estimated that the crop loss could be about 25 percent.
Finding another opportunity to paint the BJP Government as anti-farmer, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi during the Budget session in Lok Sabha urged the Government to respond quickly to the plight of farmers hit by hailstorm.
“Crops have been damaged…the Government should take immediate action,” said the Congress vice president in Parliament.
The Congress leader said that unlike last time when the Central assistance reached very late the government should hasten the provision of relief and bring succour to the affected farmers.
The Government this time on its part displayed promptness in reaching out to farmers. Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said that the Central team was ready to visit the affected states. He added that farmers will be assisted through National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).
Unseasonal rains in March last year had damaged the wheat crop significantly, resulting in 7 percent drop in wheat production in 2014-15 as compared to 2013-14. It had also damaged the pulses crop, whose production fell by nearly 2 million tonnes.
While farmers were affected due to unseasonal rains last year, 2104 witnessed a drought. Even in 2015, 10 states had declared drought.
Despite the Government announcing the new crop insurance schemes for farmers, the rabi crops will not be covered under the new scheme. Presently the affected farmers can avail of financial assistance if at least 33 percent of their crop has been damaged by hailstorms, floods, cyclones, drought, pest attacks, cold wave/frost and other notified disasters.
Though Government had increased the compensation last year, it had put severe conditions to avail compensation. According to the Government norms, compensation will be limited to farmers having a maximum 4.9 acres of land.
This meant more than half the farmers will not be eligible for compensation. Also, the maximum cash relief a farmer can avail was is Rs 13,475 and Rs 26,778 for rain-fed and assured irrigation areas, respectively.
The unseasonal rains and droughts have also decreased the agricultural growth. Compared to 2014-15 sowing of wheat was lower by 4.4 percent.
Despite crops being destroyed due to unseasonal rains, Agriculture ministry still expects good agricultural output. According to the second advance estimates released by the Government India’s wheat output is expected at 93.82 mt, 7.3 mt more than last year and 2.3 mt higher than the past five-year average.
Wheat output was lowest in five year in 2015.