Claim that special package was not fully delivered

Cashew farmers of Cuddalore district affected by cyclone “Thane” are ruing their misfortune of crop losses even a year after the disaster. They say that the special package announced by the government to revive cashew crop on about 29,000 hectares is yet to be fully delivered.

It is the contention of the farmers that only when the entire package is made available to them, they would be able to raise fresh crops. For instance, first they are offered monetary assistance for removing uprooted trees; then they are supplied VRI-3 hybrid saplings ( an early-ripening and high-yielding variety) to review cashew cultivation. It is the third and vital component that is yet to materialise - a borewell for a cluster of fresh orchards which has to be sunk, and in case of individuals, subsidy given for sinking borewells.

As the promise of sinking borewells remains only on paper, farmers who have planted saplings are in deep predicament. At a recently-held grievance day session, Thanikachalam (61), a cashew grower at Semmanguppam in Kattukudalar panchayat, broke down while narrating his tale of woe.

He said that he owned cashew orchards spreading over 15 acres.

The cyclone destroyed 25 per cent of trees. Officials had made frequent visits to his orchards insisting that he remove all trees, both the uprooted and others, for which he would get a monetary compensation of Rs. 25,000 per acre.

Mr. Thanikachalam claimed that officials had also told him that if he did so, they would provide him free saplings and sink borewell free of cost, and also arrange for drip irrigation facility.

Believing their words, he cleared all the cashew trees from his orchards and planted new saplings in October last. But, till now, the officials had not taken any step for sinking a borewell.

Had he been let on his own, he would have harvested at least two bags of cashew from an acre (a bag of cashew would fetch Rs 7,000). Immediately after the cyclone, logs were sold at Rs. 1,000 a tonne. But, now the logs fetch Rs. 1,500 a tonne. In this aspect too he lost about Rs. 60,000 from 120 tonnes of logs.

For Mr. Thanikachalam, the only option available was to commit suicide. S. Venkatesan of the Federation of Cuddalore District Farmers’ Association said that in Khammapuram block, cashew farmers could not go for fresh planting on 4,000 ha for the want of irrigation facility.

They were apprehensive that Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation might be acting as a stumbling block because if borewells are dug, power connection ought to be given to them on a priority basis. It meant overlooking the seniority list that might land up the Corporation in a mess.

“After Veera Raghava Rao, Additional Collector and Project Officer of the specially created Thane Project Management Unit, has gone on promotion as Collector, the implementation of special package has been languishing,” Mr. Venkatesan said.

Collector R.Kirlosh Kumar told The Hindu that a Government Order to sink borewells was awaited. A reminder too had been sent in this regard, he said.