Farmers stage walkout demanding Rs.15,000 compensation
A walkout by the farmers demanding Rs.15, 000 per acre as compensation on account of drought marked the beginning of the agriculturists' grievances day at the Perambalur collectorate on Thursday.
They were aggrieved that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had announced compensation of Rs.15, 000 per acre only for the farmers of delta districts who have been seriously hit by the drought while there had been no mention of other districts at all.
Responding to the plea of Raja Chidambaram, general secretary of the Tamilaga Vivasyigal Sangham, for early completion of the co-generation project at Perambalur Sugar Mills, Darez Ahmed, Collector, who was in the chair, assured the farmers that it would be positively completed in three months. "As much as 95 per cent of the work is over and only the chimney and the brick lining have to be finished". He was certain that it would be possible to run the co-generation unit by May with the available bagasse.
At the same time, he admitted that the modernisation work at the mill was pending because of some civil works costing about Rs.4 crore.
Earlier, Mr.Raja Chidambaram said Perambalur mill is one of the 12 co-operative and public sector units where co-generation was planned to generate 183 mega watts. He was unhappy about the progress of the work at the Perambalur unit and alleged that it would not be commissioned even within six months.
Similarly, he said the modernisation work started when the previous Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government was in power two years ago. It was also dragging on because of the failure of the mill to pay the requisite amount to the contractor, to the tune of Rs.32 crore.
The Collector however refused to buy the argument of the farmers that the sugar recovery from the Perambalur mill was poor only because of the old machinery. He pointed out that the recovery on Wednesday was as high as 9.52 per cent, which was comparable to any high-recovery unit.
When some farmers including T.P.K.Ramalingam lamented that power disruptions continued to haunt the district, especially at this time when public examinations are imminent, the official of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Generation and Distribution Corporation expressed her inability to make any changes with regard to the load shedding, especially at night.
With regard to the plea for more transformers to ensure better power supply, District Revenue Officer M.A.Subramanian said that land had been given for setting up three substations.
When S.Murugesan, another farmer, demanded that the mobile soil testing laboratory that had been functioning six years ago be put back on the rails, Joint Director of Agriculture P.Sankaralingam said Rs.40 lakh had already been allotted for the purpose and the new van would be ready within six months. Perambalur is one among the four districts that had been given funds for this in the State, he added.
There was also a demand for enhancing the subsidy for raising oil palm. The subsidy fixed in 1993 had not been raised at all for the past two decades during which period the price of everything, including that of fertilizers, had skyrocketed, farmers lamented.
The ryots were told that the Agricultural Engineering Department was ready to get them a subsidy of Rs.25,000 for purchase of 5,000 litre tanker which could be attached to a trailer. This would be immensely useful in cotton fields.
One of the farmers alleged that the Arasu Cable TV had not been functioning properly in the district and only handful of channels were available despite collecting Rs.100-130 per month.
He pointed out that the State Government had given an advertisement on Wednesday that it was enough to pay Rs.70 per month and the number of channels promised was quite high.