Blight shatters his dream to become debt-free

B. Guruswamy, a farmer from Kadagamdoddi village near Raichur, took one of the most difficult decisions of his life on Sunday.

With no options left, he uprooted some 3,000 pomegranate trees that were planted five years ago on his farm and set them on fire. The reason: uncontrollable bacterial blight. The deadly disease not only destroyed his farm, but also devastated his dreams of becoming debt-free.

“I had to put the pomegranate trees that I nurtured with the utmost care for all these years on fire, after all my efforts to save them from the deadly disease went in vain. I had expected a good yield this year and hoped to come out of debt,” a desperate Guruswamy told The Hindu on Monday. “Had I not taken this decision, the disease would have spread to nearby farms,” he added.

If his farm had not been infected, it would have yielded 15 tonnes of fruit that would have fetched around Rs. 8 lakh. “I would have started plucking them within a month or so,” he said. Guruswamy had taken a Rs. 2.5 lakh loan from the Pragati Grameena Bank to plant pomegranate trees on eight of his eleven acres of land. The produce in the first two years were insufficient to repay his loan.

Since the farm became infected and did not give the desired yield for the past three years, he had found it difficult to live, never mind repaying his loan. Hoping to free himself of debt once and for all, he planted pomegranate in the remaining three acres, a task in which his elder son, who was studying at Bangalore, helped him. His son had to quit his education to join him on the farm.

Guruswamy added that he had found it difficult to bear his son’s study-related expenses in Bangalore, too; but now the disease has left his efforts in vain. “I don’t know what to do next. I don’t expect any compensation from the government for my loss. If the government could waive my loans, it would be a great help,” he said.

Chamarasa Mali Patil, State president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, also urged the government to come forward to help pomegranate farmers. “Guruswamy is the first victim of this disease in this region. More farmers are likely to face this situation since the disease is spreading. The government should help them by waiving the loans they took,” the sangha president told this reporter.

Farmers in Kadagamdoddi said that around 70 acres of pomegranate farms had been infected by the bacterial blight, around Yapaladinni, Chandrabhanda, Utakanur and other villages, including theirs.

“The disease cannot be controlled after infection. The only way to save the crop is to take preventive measures,” they said.

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