“See our condition please. The government did not allow us paddy cultivation on panchayat land. First, we had sown cotton, which could not survive. Then, we opted for maize, which now stands drowned due to waterlogging (following rains),” says Bhola Singh, a farm labourer, while standing in a waterlogged field at village Hasanga of Ratia block in Fatehabad district.
Bhola Singh works at the fields of farmer Mela Singh, who says that his entire crop in 18 acres of panchayat land, taken on lease, has been damaged because of recent rains.
Bhola Singh’s video uploaded on Facebook has been shared by farm activists on social media platforms to claim how the conditions imposed under the ‘mera pani- meri virasat’ scheme especially for panchayat land has turned into a bane for farmers. From this year, the government has imposed a condition that paddy can’t be planted on the panchayat land in 26 blocks, where groundwater level is now at 35 meters, asking the farmers to opt for alternative crops like cotton and maize.
“We had taken 18 acres of panchayat land on annual lease at the rate of Rs 32,000 per acre. We also spent Rs 10,000 per acre for sowing cotton and maize. But now all of it has gone. We would not have faced such losses, had we been allowed to plant paddy on the panchayat land like the previous years,” Mela Singh told The Indian Express.
A local farm activist Om Prakash said the rains that took place Monday and Tuesday have damaged crops in about 50 per cent area of total 80 acres of panchayat land in the village. The farm activists demand that the farmers be allowed to cultivate paddy even on panchayat land especially in those areas, which face floods and waterlogging because of seasonal rivers and rains.
Initially, the government had made it mandatory to cultivate the alternative crops in place of paddy in at least 50 per cent of the farmland in 19 blocks, which include eight paddy rich blocks, as they face the problem of depleting water. But following the protests by farmers, this condition was removed. “The farmers should be allowed to cultivate as per their convenience even on the panchayat land as mainly small and marginal farmers take this land on rent for their livelihood,” said Haryana Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) president Gurnam Singh Chaduni.
Fatehabad Kisan Sanghrash Samiti president Mandeep Nathwan estimates that the recent rains have caused losses in about 2,000 acres in Fatehabad district especially in the fields of cotton and maize. A delegation of the samiti met Fatehabad deputy commissioner Narhari Singh Banger Thursday to hand over a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister. The samiti has sought compensation for farmers whose crops have been damaged apart from installation of bore wells to recharge underground water.
Deputy Director of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Department Rajesh Sihag confirmed that they have received reports of waterlogging in fields. “We have asked the officials to gather the details to access the losses. Meanwhile, we have also urged the farmers to apply for the insurance whose crops were insured,” added Sihag.
The officer said that the government gives Rs 7,500 per acre to the panchayats as incentive in lieu of the condition meant to allow only alternative crops in place of paddy on panchayat land.
Describing the ‘mera pani meri virasat’ as a scheme aimed at water conservation in the interest of farmers and future generations, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal recently announced that 1000 bore wells would be constructed for recharging of underground water. To begin with, the scheme would be implemented in three blocks of Guhla, Ismailabad and Ratia.