The delegation of six Ministers will submit findings to Chief Minister

A team of six Ministers, headed by Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam, assessed the drought condition and its impact on the farm economy of five districts in the western region on Friday.

Withered crops, parched lands and anguished farmers were what the team ran into in all these districts. The situation assessment began in Salem and then covered Namakkal, Erode, Tirupur and Coimbatore districts.

The other Ministers in the team were Natham S. Viswanathan (Electricity), K.P. Munusamy (Municipal Administration and Rural Development), R. Vaidyalingam (Housing Minister), S. Damodaran (Agriculture), Edapadi K. Palanisami (Highways) and Thoppu N. D. Venkatachalam (Revenue). The senior officials in the team included Additional Chief Secretary T. S. Sridhar.

Mr. Panneeselvam told farmers at Panamarathupatti union, one of the severely affected areas in Salem, that the situation was inflicted on them by poor monsoons. Farmers in the State were also affected because of Karnataka not releasing Cauvery water under the distress sharing formula.

The team inspected the withered jasmine and horticultural crops the region was known for. The district had deficit rainfall this year, forcing farmers to abandon their crops or buy water to save the standing crops such as paddy, maize, sugarcane and horticultural crops and flower varieties. The Panamaruthupatti Lake, the main source of water, had turned dry.

At Puduchatram in Namakkal, general secretary of the Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam K. Sundaram told the team that 28,000 acres of cultivable land in Salem and Namakkal districts that were irrigated by Cauvery had been affected this year due to very less water released from Karnataka to Mettur Dam.

Bore wells had not been of much use as the ground water table had depleted below 1,350 feet at many areas. The government should take steps to improve the groundwater level. As sinking of bore wells was too expensive for small and medium farmers, the government should procure rigs and rent them to farmers at nominal rates, he said. The team visited places where groundnut and coconut crop were affected. District officials said a proposal sent to the government had sought relief for 1,14,894 farmers of this district whose cultivable lands (72,882 hectares) had been affected.

Mr. Paneerselvam said all possible efforts would be taken to redress the grievances of the farmers. The team would submit its findings to the Chief Minister.

In Erode, Public Works Minister K.V. Ramalingam joined the team in meeting affected farmers, who sought adequate compensation to help them take up cultivation in the next season. Mr. Panneerselvam said “The Chief Minister has already brought in a number of measures to help drought-affected farmers. More initiatives will be launched for the welfare of the farmers.”

In Tirupur, the team visited areas under sugarcane at Alambadi village and those under maize at Kadayur, both in Kangayam region.

Joint Director of Agriculture Mohammed Kalimullah Sherif said of the total 5,424 h.a. under sugarcane during the current fiscal, the crop raised on 1,592 h.a. was affected by drought. As for maize, almost the entire 39,000 ha had been affected.

The team reached Coimbatore late in the evening and inspected farms at Chettipalayam and Malumichampatti.

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