Truant monsoon, crop loss and power cuts compound their woes
For the lakhs of delta farmers and agricultural labourers, Tuesday would be one of the worst Deepavalis they have ever seen in recent times.
The overwhelming enthusiasm shown by the people in shopping reflected on the television channels is only an urban phenomenon. This is a situation diametrically opposite to the one that obtained last year.
In 2011, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Government boldly opened the Mettur Dam for delta irrigation a week ahead of the scheduled date of June 12. And the gamble paid off and the State registered a record procurement of more than 26 lakh metric tonnes.
Even by April this year, the State Government was very much alive to the imminent problem as it apprehended that South West monsoon might play truant. And hence it protested against Karnataka depleting its reservoirs for summer irrigation.
However, Karnataka went ahead with summer crop and it had hardly any storage in its major reservoirs when the South West monsoon set in.
With the monsoon proving a serious failure, Karnataka refused to release any water to Mettur Dam thus delaying its opening by almost 100 days . This resulted in the loss of virtually two thirds of the total six lakhs acres of kuruvai crop to Tamil Nadu. Only those with pumpsets could manage some yield.
Kuruvai is the cash crop of the delta and its loss left the farmers high and dry.
But for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which guarantees 100 days of labour and Rs 132 per day as wage, at least six lakh agricultural labourers would have been in soup.
Hoping against hope, delta farmers chose to go in for samba crop. The State Government also announced a number of measures to help them.
A substantial number of them have opted for direct sowing based on the encouraging returns that it provided in 1987.
Several tail end areas could receive Mettur water only by the first week of October. Even as they were badly in need of rains, North East monsoon opened its innings with a bang by the middle of October. Unfortunately for the farmers, Nilam cyclone hit the State by the end of the same month inundating lakhs of acres in the delta region.
Mannargudi S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, and Aarupathy P. Kalyanam, general secretary of the Federation of Farmers’ Associations of Cauvery Delta Districts, estimate that the crop loss due to inundation, especially in the low lying areas of the delta, would be enormous.
While Mr. Ranganathan has sought a special insurance scheme for the farmers in coastal areas, Mr. Kalyanam has appealed to the Government to grant a compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre to the affected farmers.
Several farmers’ associations in Tiruchi district have also demanded similar compensation.
The woes of farmers have not ended.
Though the State Government did promise 12 hours of three-phase power supply for agriculture and did try to provide the same for some time, the supply has not been maintained even for six hours a day for the past few of weeks, farmers lament. Thus even the farmers with pumpsets have been left in the lurch.
With Mettur Dam having just one-third of its total capacity of 93.4 tmcft, none can be certain whether the crops that survive the North East monsoon fury would get water till the end of January.