September 13, 2020

Assess the loss and provide adequate compensation: AIKS

IN a press release dated September 5, AIKS has stated that in the entire cotton-growing area of Haryana the standing crop that reached the stage of ball formation suffered massive losses due to Whitefly infestation. A total of 7.37 lakh hectares were sown with a cotton crop which is almost nine per cent more than last year. This is spread over half of the districts of the state out of which it is one of the major crops in at least five districts along with Paddy, Bajra, pulses etc., in the Kharif season. Preliminary reports estimate huge losses to the peasantry who are already facing extreme distress due to the Covid-19 lockdown and acute agrarian crisis. The loss of cotton crop comes at a stage when farmers have already made the entire investment for meeting costs of inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, irrigation as well as made payment of land rent and wages of labour. Other Kharif crops like Guar (Cluster Bean), Moong (Green Gram) too have been badly hit. Guar is affected as an alternate host of Whitefly while Moong is affected by Yellow Mosaic Virus of which Whitefly happens to be a carrier.

Haryana State Kisan Sabha(HSKS) immediately took the initiative to organise cotton farmers of the affected area, demanding special surveys for assessment of the losses and effective compensation. The HSKS also constituted a team of experts and scientists to visit the fields and give a report. State president of HSKS, Phool Singh Sheokand himself a former agriculture development officer accompanied by the former chief of the cotton section of the Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Dr Rajbir Sangwan, former chief scientist of entomology, Dr Roshan Lal, former sub-divisional officer Dr Kartar Singh visited several places on September 1 to verify the damage and talked to farmers.  The team reported that the extent of damage was massive and was aggravating very fast with every passing day. The peasants revealed that initially the traders also misled the growers to spray a combination of pesticides and made huge profits, though such combinations have proved ineffective. This time farmers had to do the sowing twice or thrice perhaps due to spurious seeds sold to them. The extent of financial loss is yet to be assessed but is expected to be much more than losses suffered in 2015-16 which was around Rs. 1100 crore.

On September 2, a massive dharna was staged at Hisar secretariat by the Kisan Sabha district committee which was also addressed by Phool Singh Sheokand among others. Mass protests were held in Fatehabad District on September 4, Palwal and Bhiwani district on September 5, 2020. The remaining districts are also actively taking up the issue of compensation.  A meeting of Kisan Sabha representatives from all cotton-growing regions is being convened on  September 7 at Hisar to chalk out coordinated actions.

The Manoharlal Khattar government is not taking timely steps to estimate the real losses and provide for effective compensation. It has only announced field inspection in the district of Hisar while the crop damage is extensive in almost half of the districts in the state. AIKS demands an immediate declaration of a comprehensive survey to assess the losses and provision of compensation at real prices.