Surinder Sihag, a progressive farmer from village Dhingawali in Fazilka district’s Abohar was seen Saturday beating an empty steel utensil with a wooden stick as he moved in his kinnow farm and wheat fields. A group of farm workers, also beating empty tin cans and boxes, accompanied him.
The commotion was loud enough to scare away any wild animal. The trick is often used by villagers and foresters to scare away wandering elephants.
In the Abohar village, however, it was not an elephant that Sihag and his workers were trying to shoo away. As they moved about, eyes peeled back, they were trying to scare away some intruders – suspected to have arrived from Pakistan – that are just above an inch long.
“Some locusts have arrived in our fields. They get distracted by loud sound and fly away. Since they are in small numbers right now, we feel that this method can help,” Sihag said.
According to Punjab Agriculture Department officials, the locusts, popularly known as ‘Tiddi Dal’, have come from neighbouring Rajasthan, where they arrived from the desert area of Pakistan.
Following the pest attack, authorities in Rajasthan undertook a massive exercise to contain the outbreak.
“They have already damaged the crop in Rajasthan and are now turning towards Punjab. So, we have to stay alert. Our workers are in fields 24×7,” said Surinder Godara, a former sarpanch of village Gumjal in Abohar.
A group of farmers from village Mallan in Muktsar district, meanwhile, released a video on social media in which they claimed that they were killing the locusts manually. They said they did not feel the need pesticide spray as the locust numbers were very small.
Though Punjab Agriculture Department has stated that the current weather in the state is not favourable for breeding of locusts. Balwinder Singh Brar, Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO), Muktsar, said, “The conditions in Punjab are not favourable for the breeding of this insect as it breeds in sandy and dry soil. Moreover, it needs 30-35 degree Celsius temperature to breed”.
The farmers, however, do not want to take any chances.
Dwarka Prasad Sharda, a farmer from Bangerkhera of Abohar, said, “They need to be killed so as to stop them from multiplying further. We can’t take chances as they lay eggs in large numbers.”
Ravi Dhingra, a farmer from village Mohammad Peeran in Fazilka said,”The Tiddi Dal has reached Fazilka villages from Abohar. We are not satisfied with the agriculture department’s efforts. We fear that they will wake up only after the damage has been done. This is the reason that we are following desi methods of beating utensils and killing insects by hands”.
In some Fazilka villages, the agriculture department officials went for boom spray of pesticides. A survey done by Entomology Department of the Punjab Agriculture University confirmed the presence of locust hoppers in small numbers in villages of Gumjal, Dangarkhera, Punjava, Panniwala Mahala, Arachiki, Bhangarkhera, Roopnagar, Bareka, Bakainwala, Haripura, Khuian Sarvar of district Fazilka and in Raniwala, Midda, Aspal, Virk Khera, Bhagsar and some other villages of Sri Muktsar Sahib.
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