Phailin cyclone and the consequent floods have badly hit sharecroppers of Ganjam district.

Sharecroppers like Bijay Behera of Kumari village and Bauribandhu Mallik of Chadheyapalli village feel that they are unlikely to get proper compensation from the government for their agricultural losses.

This is the plight of thousands of sharecroppers of this natural calamity-hit district as well as other parts of the State. It is not the first time for the sharecroppers to face such a problem as sharecroppers in the State are yet to get legal or administrative recognition.

It may be noted that in the past several cases of suicide by sharecroppers occurred in the State after severe crop loss due to rain, floods or drought.

Although no official study has been made regarding the number and state of sharecroppers till now, yet as per private assessments over 60 per cent of the cultivators in Odisha are sharecroppers and 70 per cent of cultivable land in the State is under the use of sharecroppers. In Ganjam district also, a majority of the cultivators are sharecroppers, says Kailash Sadangi, leader of Odisha Krushak Sabha (OKS), a peasants’ organisation.

As sharecroppers do not have any legal recognition, they bear all risks of cultivation process like the recent natural calamities. Their loss increases as they take loan from private sources at high interest rate as they are not eligible for low interest agricultural loans from nationalised banks or cooperative bodies.

As there is no legal document for land lease, sharecroppers find it hard to get their crop insured.

Land owners do not make any investment in cultivation and also they do not share the loss.

No legal recognition

Without any legal recognition, sharecroppers in the State do not get any relief, insurance cover or compensation for the crop loss incurred by them.

“But the irony is that when the government comes out with compensation for natural calamities, land owners get these benefits as they have the legal ownership of the land for which compensation is provided,” alleges State secretariat member of the CPI (M) Ali Kishore Patnaik.

There have been several instances in the past when land owners even living outside the State could collect the compensation for crop loss without the knowledge of sharecroppers who tilled the land, Mr. Sadangi says.