It is a double whammy situation for the agricultural labourers in the district where over 90 per cent of the households have registered under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) for getting 100 days of guaranteed labour, the highest in the entire State.
“Due to poor rainfall and power scarcity, agricultural operations have become scarce in the district. And hence the agricultural labourers do not get jobs. Besides, even places like Tirupur and Coimbatore that were offering them some employment or other, virtually round the year because of the industries there, are unable to employ them because of power scarcity,” lamented R. Ulaganathan of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam.
At the agriculturists’ grievances day on Friday, he said that a large number of tracts had been left fallow because of poor rainfall.
Hence, apart from giving a compensation of Rs.25,000 an acre for farmers who have raised paddy and suffered huge losses, he demanded that each family of agricultural labour be given a solatium of Rs.15,000 to sustain their existence.
However, S. Sengnamuthu, Ariyalur District Vivasayigal Sangham, differed with him on the availability of employment for the agricultural labourers.
“Please do not equate agriculturists with that of the agricultural labourers because the latter are able to command wages even to the extent of Rs.300-400 a day. We do not get labourers for work,” he claimed.
He regretted that both the Central and the State government were more worried about the industry than about the precarious condition of agriculture.
“Treat agriculture on a par with industry,” he pleaded and wanted to know how many pumpsets in the district had been energised so far and how many applications for pumpset connections were still pending.
“In case of power connection for industrial units, the applicants are able to get faster,” he alleged.
Mani of Tamil Nadu Canegrowers’ Association regretted that the district administration had failed to implement the agreement reached with the farmers, especially on cutting charges and weighment.
Cutting charges which were only Rs.400 a tonne of sugarcane had now touched Rs.650. The private mill to which the farmers in the district supplied cane had not even bothered to provide a seniority list for supply.
Apart from stopping even the small quantity of sugar that it had been providing to the cane suppliers free of cost, it was not obliging them when they sought sugar for their domestic functions. “This is poor personal rapport,” he said.
Punyamoorthi, another sugarcane farmer, submitted that he was able to harvest cane to an extent of 60-70 tonnes an acre in 2006-7 when he was getting power supply of 20 hours a day.
“Now due to serious power shortage, I am not even able to get 30-40 tonnes an acre,” he lamented.
‘Due to poor rainfall and power scarcity, agricultural operations have become scarce in the district’