District administration blamed for not providing proper input

Was it the unrest in the aftermath of the violence in Cuddalore district following the arrest of PMK leaders or was it the failure of the agricultural officials in the district to provide proper inputs on the prevailing drought situation. Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that the Central team, assessing crop damage in the State, has skipped Cuddalore.

In the district, large swathe of fertile land are lying barren in the tail-end delta region, comprising Chidambaram and Kattumannarkoil blocks.

“The indifferent attitude of the officials, bordering apathy, has hurt the farmers, more than the drought,” says K.Vijayakumar, president of the Sethiathope Anicut Paasana Vivasayigal Sangam. The local officials had lost sight of the fact that the crop prospect of the Veeranam tank ayacutdars was very much linked to the Cauvery water situation. Except those cultivable lands lying close to these sources, those in the tail end areas were parched by the drought. But the officials did not seem to have taken these aspects into reckoning, he charged. With acute power shortage, even lifting of the sub-surface water has become a rarity which has drastically cut into crop production.

A farmer would have to spend Rs 22,970 for raising paddy in an acre, whereas the State government’s compensation package was only Rs 15,000 an acre. Even this amount could not be realized by many farmers owing to the stifling conditions laid down by the banks. For overcoming the drought situation, the State government had sought Rs 19,665 crore from the Centre (following which the Central team has undertaken the visit), but as things stand, it is not clear whether the drought-hit farmers of Cuddalore district would be entitled to get any monetary support, he said.

V.Kannan, vice-president of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, said the Central team skipping Cuddalore district was highly condemnable. The district was prone to drought, floods and other natural disasters such as cyclone, storm and tsunami. The drought situation had not only affected the staple crops like paddy but also commercial crops such as sugarcane, banana and groundnut. The condition was so bad that it has even made the drought-tolerant casuarinas trees to wither. But by skirting Cuddalore district, the Central team had denied an opportunity to the Cuddalore farmers to directly share their grievances.

K.Venkatesan of the Federation of the Cuddalore District Farmers’ Association is of the view that the Central team might have ignored the district based on the feedback given by the local officials who must have been misguided by the arrival of paddy and other crops in the market committees where even farmers from Ariyalur and Perambalur brought in their produce. Only a fair assessment on drought damages at the field level and direct interaction with the farmers would give a real picture of the farmers’ plight.

When contacted, District Collector R.Kirlosh Kumar said there was no specific reason for the Central team not visiting Cuddalore. “The district was not in the schedule of the team’s visit.”