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Farmers’ dreams come crashing down
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Khera Gajju (Patiala),  February 16
For Ashok Kumar, a local farmer, it is a second tragedy to come about in a year. Earlier drought and now hailstorm have ravaged his dream to reap a rich harvest.

Unable to describe his plight, Ashok Kumar, in a choked voice, says: “All has gone”. On seeing his wheat crop growing in a healthy shape, Ashok Kumar had dreamed to put his daughter, currently preparing for PMT in the City Beautiful, in some medical college. But the hailstorm that hit his village a few days ago has cut down all his plans.

The hailstorm was of such ferocity that it completely destroyed the wheat and other crops in the area. Ashok Kumar is not the only one to suffer such devastation. As many as 17 acres wheat crop of Mr Narinder Pal Singh, a nambardar of the village, has also been damaged. Same is true in case of Baljit Singh, who had sown crop in 8 acres. The nambardar’s daughter is in plus two and son in the 7th class. “I do not know how I would pay the fee of my kids this year,” he asks with a lot of pain reflecting in his face.

What has added to their grief is the shabby treatment given to them by the state government. “The government ditched us at the time of drought. It had assured to give compensation to the drought-hit farmers. But not a single penny has been given to us even after knowing the fact that there was no canal water facility available to our area, and that we solely survive on the mercy of the rain gods, which remained elusive by and large during the monsoon last year,” say villagers. “As the government had not given us a penny for facing the drought, how can we expect that it would compensate us now for the damage suffered by us because of hailstorms,” they ask.

Ashok Kumar says that he and some other farmers of the village had bought a special seed of a new variety of wheat identified as 502 for Rs 30 per kg from PAU, Ludhiana. “We were expecting a better yield from the wheat fields this year in the light of a special variety sown by us. But that is a thing of the past now,” he adds. Farmers will not be able to sow even sun flower by removing the damaged wheat crop. “Most of the fields are submerged in rain water. Even after the evaporation of water, it would take the soil some days to dry up and for further preparation to sow sunflower. By that time, it will be too late to sow sunflower, say farmers.

Besides Gajju Khera village, other nearby villages also have been hit hard by the hailstorm. Mr Mohan Singh, former sarpanch of the Gurditpur village, says that a number of farmers in nearby villages have suffered a huge loss. “It was one of the worst hailstorms that hit this area,” he adds. The Subdivisional Magistrate and Mr Raj Khurana, MLA of the area, have assured farmers all help. “But we are not hopeful,” say the angry farmers.

Wheat crop had reached a stage when no expenditure was required to be made till its harvesting. “We spent about Rs 4000 per acre from ploughing to sowing and then on fertilisers to nurse the crop that has now become a waste mass of green stubbles,” says Amarjit Singh, another farmer.

Vegetable crops and other soft crops are the worst hit. All green potato fields are appearing like clay grounds after the hailstorm. How farmers will survive the double tragedy in a year is a difficult question to answer. Certainly, the government would have to extend liberal financial aid to them, besides postponing the recovery of their cooperative and other loans.

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