They haven’t been paid relief due to poll code

Coconut growers in Tumkur district are in distress as the palms are withering due to drought and disease. Compounding their woes is the delay in the distribution of relief by the district administration owing to the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections.

They have been reeling under drought for the last three years. Coconut is largely grown in Tiptur, Turuvekere, Chikkanayakanhalli, Tumkur and Gubbi taluks, where farmers are entirely dependent on the crop for livelihood.

According to the Department of Horticulture, the total area under coconut cultivation in the district is 1,47,539 hectares. However, the prevailing drought has brought down the yield to less than 50 per cent on about 36,502 hectares.

In addition, coconut palms on about 4,812 hectares have completely withered due to drought and pest attacks, affecting 75,688 farmers. About 70 per cent of those affected are small and marginal farmers.

Lack of irrigation facilities, decline in groundwater level, and scanty rainfall are the main reasons for the withering of coconut palms. In addition, stem-bleeding, bud rot and other diseases and pest attacks too are affecting the palms. Many farmers are migrating to nearby towns and cities in search of job, leaving their children and aged parents in villages.

S.K. Santhosh, a farmer from Soralamavu in Chikkanayakanahalli taluk, said, “I am working as a helper in a private factory in Bangalore to look after my aged parents, as we are not getting any income from the coconut farm.” He said that 80 palms, aged about 30 to 40, had withered, causing a huge loss to his family.

Gowramma from Muniyuru in Turuvekere taluk said, “It’s painful to see the coconut palms withering as they are like my children.” Borewells have gone dry and it is not possible to get water even after sinking borewells to a depth of more than 1,200 ft, she said.

A farmer gets compensation of Rs. 12,000 a hectare for 150 coconut palms, which works out to Rs. 80 a palm, subject to a maximum of 2 hectares for every grower.

State secretary of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha B.S. Devaraj told The Hindu, “We cannot even plant a new coconut sapling with the compensation given by the government as a sapling costs Rs. 300. The relief should increase to Rs. 45,000 a palm.”

He urged the government to fix a reasonable compensation. Coconut palms live for 60 to 70 years and on an average, each palm helps generate an income of about Rs. 1,000 a year. If a 25-year-old palm withers, the farmer should get Rs. 45,000 as compensation as the palm would have helped generate that much income if it had lived for the next 45 years, he said.

Additional Deputy Commissioner R.S. Peddappaiah said that although the Union government had released Rs. 10.61 crore as relief to farmers, it could not be disbursed now because of the enforcement of the model code of conduct.

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