In a rare show of Centre-state bonhomie, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who conducted an aerial survey of storm-hit areas of Kosi-Seemanchal on Friday, assured “adequate” central assistance to Bihar once the state government assesses the damage. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar returned the favour by thanking Narendra Modi for “quick response and expressing solidarity in face of disaster.”
Meanwhile, the farmers are still counting losses and wondering how they will repay loans. After average returns from paddy and wheat crops, they were certain of bumper maize yields. But the storm has shattered their hopes. “It feels like losing your young and worthy son. Maize crops were almost ready. It was just a matter of 15 days. Maize was like our ready cash, which was looted by the storm,” said Shanker Singh of Chandwa village in the worst-hit Katihar area.
Akhilesh Singh, a farmer who has taken Rs 9 lakh loan for growing maize on his 20 bighas, had gone for high-yielding hybrid seed. “As my fields were laden with maize, it became the worst casualty,” says Akhilesh Singh standing in midst of his fallen crops while fellow farmers Raghav Singh, Kumod Singh and Jayant Singh join in to tell their stories. Raghav and Kumod each have loans of Rs 3 lakh.
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“I have sold paddy to government but I am yet to get the promised Rs 2 lakh. I took Rs 3 lakh loan for maize crops that had seldom failed us. It has fallen flat causing almost 90 per cent damage. If there is any rain now, the fallen maize crops will start rotting,” said Kumod Singh, alias Tikku Singh, who depends only on farming like several people in the upper caste Chandwa village. Raghav Singh added that he was so confident of maize yields that he purchased a tractor a few months back on loan for Rs 4 lakh.
Pradip Singh, alias Swami Chaitanya, has suffered twin losses — he lost his 45 mango trees and nearly nine acres of maize crops in the storm. “I used to spend almost my entire day at the orchard, which is the result of my 10 years of hard work. The orchard had given me Rs 85,000 last year. It will be nil this year,” said Singh, showing fallen small green mangoes.
The small farmers of adjoining Rahta village have similar tales. Sushil Paswan, whose five bighas of maize crops have suffered extensive damage, said he has to support a family of seven. “My wife and I will work in fields now to earn Rs 160 and Rs 100 per day respectively.”
Pramod Kumar Sharma’s two acre maize crops have suffered over 70 per cent damage. “I had taken time out of my studies to help my father. Makke ki kamar nahin hum kisanon ki kamar toot gayi hai (It is not the maize but the farmers who have fallen flat,” said Pramod, pursuing his graduation.
Meanwhile, the state government is busy restoring electricity in affected areas.
“In Purnia alone, over 900 poles were uprooted. In 48 hours, we have restored power supply to 30 MW as against the normal 35 MW,” said Bihar energy secretary Pratyaya Amrit, who has been camping in Purnia for the past three days.