FARMERS HAVE outrightly rejected the Rs 416 crore compensation announced by the Punjab government for cotton crop damaged due to pink bollworm attack, saying it is too meagre and doesn’t even cover the input cost that farmers incur for sowing the crop. They also threatened to launch a statewide stir against the government if they don’t hike the compensation to at least Rs 60,000 per acre in cases where the entire crop area has been damaged.
Calling the move a “relief measure and not compensation”, the farmers called upon the government to change the nomenclature of this package, adding that compensation is aimed at compensating farmers for the loss suffered by them on this account while what the government has announced is merely a fraction of that.
They said it is the duty of the government to take care of farmers’ huge losses and that it is their (farmers) right to be compensated properly.
The government on Saturday has announced compensation for five districts of the cotton belt including Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Barnala and Sangrur where around four lakh acres out of total 7.51 lakh acres had been damaged by the pink bollworm. The government is releasing the compensation at the rate of Rs 2,000 per acre for 26-32 per cent loss, Rs 5,400 per acre for 33-75 per cent loss and Rs 12,000 per acre for 76-100 per cent loss which is the highest ever amount. The government said that earlier, farmers were being paid Rs 8,000 per acre and pickers 5 per cent of the amount for crop failure.
Talking to the Indian Express, Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) Dakuanda General Secretary, Jagmohan Singh, said, “The pink bollworm has affected the cotton crop primarily in four districts of the cotton belt of the state. Punjab government cannot compensate the farmers of even four districts properly then how can it be a pro-farming community. This is relief under disaster management not compensation.”
“This time the Kapas (raw cotton) is being sold at the rate of Rs 7,700-7,800 per quintal and minimum 10 quintals crop is harvested from one acre and with this calculation a farmer would sell his crop at the rate of Rs 77,000-78,000 per acre. The government is providing Rs 12,000 per acre which is over 6 times less than what they would have got after selling their crop, which is a cruel joke on farmers. Farmers are spending around Rs 20,000 as input cost on cotton crop per acre. And if a farmer has taken land on lease the lease rental in the cotton belt is upward of Rs 50,000 per acre per annum. Assuming that a farmer takes two crops in a year the lease rental per crop is above Rs 25,000 per cost. Therefore the total expense of a farmer including input cost and lease rent of one crop totals to above Rs 45,000. What they will do with Rs 12,000, which is nearly 1/4th of the total cost,” said Jagmohan.
“We demand at least Rs 40,000 per acre compensation so that the farmer can meet his input cost and rental value of the field,” he said.
Dr Darshan Pal Singh of Krantikari Kisan Union (KKU) and Hamir Singh Kandia of BKU Kadia said that they alongwith other farmer organisations would hold a massive protest if the government does not give proper compensation to cotton growers in the coming days.
Jagmohan also demanded compensation for loss of paddy and basmati in the recent rain coupled with hailstorm.
Farmer unions have been demanding Rs 60,000 per acre for farmers and Rs 30,000 per acre for farm labourers.
Reacting to the state government’s decision, Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of BKU Ugrahan, said, “This means that damage of crop below 26 per cent will amount to no compensation at all. Moreover, they had been telling us Rs 12,000 per acre as compensation in our meetings with government officials as well, but we had rejected this move. However, they did not increase the price at all. Our protests will continue, we will continue to cross CM’s posters with black cross marks as our demands have not been met at all.”
BKU Ugrahan members also protested outside the venues where Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal had gone to hold his election campaign programs. They also reached Gidderbaha where Transport Minister Amarinder Singh Raja Warring was present.
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