Unseasonal rains coupled with hail and thunderstorms in the past few weeks have caused extensive damage to rabi crops and dealt a severe blow to thousands of farmers in many parts of the country, including Uttar Pradesh (UP) where 25 out of 80 districts have been affected.
According to official reports, crops standing on more than 26.70 lakh hectares of agricultural land spread across 31 districts of UP have been damaged, leaving farmers, particularly the small and landless peasants, with no options but to take desperate steps. While the UP State government has taken serious note of the losses suffered by the farmers, ActionAid India and its local partners have been closely working with the government authorities to address the agrarian crisis in the state, especially in the Bundelkhand region.
ActionAid India’s Lucknow office is working closely with the Chief Minster’s Office of Uttar Pradesh to ensure compensation for affected families and to ease out the terms of loan repayment to banks. It is a welcome step that the government has now agreed to a compensation of 7 lakhs to the next of the kin of the deceased farmers who have committed suicide and our efforts are also to ensure that it reaches the affected families at the earliest.
“According to our field reports, 67 farmers have committed suicide in the past one month. Out of them, 54 were from Bundelkhand region, which has borne the brunt of the agrarian crisis,” says Khalid Chaudhary, Lucknow Regional Manager, ActionAid India.
“We have also been working in coordination with other organizations and local administration to ensure that a proper survey is done so that all affected farmers can get adequate compensation for their crop loss. Regular meetings are being organised with the small and marginal farmers who are in distress condition in our project areas”, he adds.
In a village called Gabhra, Naraini Block of Banda district among the 82 families that the team could reach out to, 56 families have taken loan of 80 lakhs from the bank to cultivate wheat, grams, pulses. Most of those crops stand destroyed in the unseasonal rains, leaving these families in utter despair and to an uncertain future.
According to Sehjo Singh, Director Programme and Policy at ActionAid India, landless farmers often fall through the gaps when such crisis occurs.
“Government guidelines on loss of crop have provisions for compensation to landowners. And thus, those who till farmland leased or rented from landowners often fail to get any compensation for their loss. In a situation where a majority of our peasants are landless, it is important to devise a strategy to mitigate their distress.”
“We are also keeping a close eye on the crises in other states where we work and the news coming in is of great distress. Worst affected are Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.”, she added.
“In many parts of the country, the eligibility criteria for ex-gratia are an issue. For instance, in recent farmers’ suicides in Marathwada region of Maharashtra, applications of such farmers who were tenant farmers/share croppers or who had borrowed loan from non-institutional sources were turned down by the administration. So among the eligibility criteria set by government, possession of land, loan taken from either nationalized or co-operative banks and loan from registered money lenders are the main operational impediments in accessing compensation on the part of the deceased families’ dependents. Women farmers also find it difficult, because of lack of official recognition as being farmers”, says Raghu P, Leader of Land and Livelihood Hub at ActionAid India.
The large amount of crop loss is also a worrying sign for milk producing states like Rajasthan.
Shabnam Aziz, Jaipur Regional Manager for ActionAid India says that farmers fear a fodder crisis. “We are demanding a reopening of cattle camps where this issue can be addressed to a great extend”, she says.
ActionAid Lucknow regional has done a study on the issue of farmer’s suicide in Bundelkhand region and this report can be made available upon request. For interview availability with Khalid or Raghu P, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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