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Posted at: Sep 14, 2017, 1:53 AM; last updated: Sep 14, 2017, 1:53 AM (IST)

Dera episode casts shadow on cotton belt

Fearing violence, professional cotton pluckers from Alwar in Rajasthan reluctant to come to Punjab, Haryana
Dera episode casts shadow on cotton belt
A family of professional cotton pluckers wait for farmers at the railway station in Bathinda on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Vijay Kumar

Varinder Singh

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 13

The Gurmeet Ram Rahim episode has cast its shadow on the cotton belt of Punjab and Haryana.

Cotton growers are facing a tough time as the number of cotton pluckers from neighbouring Rajasthan has gone down drastically.

In a double whammy for farmers of Punjab’s sprawling cotton belt spread over eight districts — Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Ferozepur, Sangrur, Barnala, Faridkot and Moga, the region has been lashed by heavy rain, causing huge losses.

Crop loss in the entire cotton belt has been pegged at over 7,000 acres even as the Punjab Agriculture Department is still assessing the damage.

The professional cotton pluckers from Alwar in Rajasthan are reluctant to come with their families to Punjab or Haryana in the aftermath of the Gurmeet Ram Rahim episode apparently for the fear of violence.

It has been a decades’ old practice for hundreds of Rajasthan-based labourers specialising in cotton plucking to move to Punjab and Haryana from the last week of August and stay here for two months.

Their main attraction was the better remuneration in Punjab and Haryana. In the past, they have been getting Rs 500-600 per acre apart from add-ons like wheat flour, tea, milk, ‘faraata’ fans and accommodation.

Another major reason for their staying away is the suspension of rail services on the Sirsa-Rewari or Hisar-Bathinda sections for more than a fortnight due to the fragile law and order situation in the two states.

“Farmers have no choice but to pay more money to local labourers apart from extra facilities like increased quantities of wheat flour, tea, ghee, vegetables, pulses and spices. We cannot say no as the crop can be devastated by rain anytime,” said Gurdarshan Singh, a cotton grower of Bathinda.

The shortage of cotton pluckers has touched such a point that some farmers have sent their family members or relatives to townships or villages situated along the Rajasthan border so that they could arrange labourers as soon as they land on Punjab’s soil.

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