After a good run, prospects wilt for the farm sector

The State’s agricultural sector is reeling under the impact of a failed monsoon and demonetisation

Updated - November 28, 2021 10:11 pm IST

Published - January 07, 2017 01:28 am IST - CHENNAI

After achieving a bumper harvest and an all-time high in food grains production last year, the State’s farm sector is now in the midst of a huge crisis.

And, the crisis is multi-dimensional: Besides the likely fall in production, the State is witnessing a spike in death of farmers, both natural and otherwise.

On Thursday, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), expressing concern, took suo motu cognizance of media reports regarding the deaths of 106 farmers in one month. The most affected districts, according to the NHRC’s statement, are Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam (the delta region), Villupuram, Pudukottai, Ariyalur and Cuddalore.

S. Ranganathan, general secretary of the Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, cites “monetary crunch” triggered by demonetisation as the primary reason for the current state of affairs.

“When a farmer realises that he or she does not have immediate cash to attend to the ailing crop, he or she feels depressed. There are reports of farmers dying out sheer helplessness and shock,” he says.

An agricultural expert, who wishes to remain anonymous, says most of those who had died are senior citizens.

An official in the Agriculture Directorate, clarifying that it is the job of the Revenue Department to handle issues concerning compensation, points out that a number of officials of the State government are visiting the drought-hit areas for an on-the-spot assessment, after which the government will announce the next steps.

The insurance salve

The official explains that under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana [the new crop insurance scheme launched by the Centre in January 2016], 13 lakh farmers have, so far, been covered against eight lakh farmers last year under the earlier crop insurance scheme.

Nearly 80 per cent of the farmers in the Cauvery delta region has been roped in under the new scheme, which entails higher compensation, the official says, adding that the government will come to the rescue of even those farmers who have not been covered under the insurance scheme.

Mr. Ranganathan says the government and the farming community should do everything to increase productivity so that rice production does not go down steeply even if the crop area gets shrunk during any drought in future.

Also, as more and more farmers are using high-powered pump sets, the capacity of distribution transformers need to be immediately augmented.

The power supply for the pump sets should be provided on rotational basis so that the farmers do not use water and electricity indiscriminately.

For the next five or six months, landless labour should be employed only for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, providing a period of “holiday” for agriculture, he added.

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