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Lockdown and early floods: Double trouble for Assam farmers

Noor Jamal, 25, lives at Satrakanara village in Barpeta district, which is heavily flooded. “In the lockdown, I could not sell our produce of vegetables and jute. And now there is flood water in the paddy field, it will damage the crops,” he said.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati | Updated: July 18, 2020 7:35:54 am
Assam farmers, Coronavirus lockdown, Assam floods, Assam news, Indian express news Flood-affected people in Assam’s Dhubri district. (PTI photo)

At Bhuragaon in Assam’s Morigaon district, adjacent to the Brahmaputra and severely affected in this year’s floods, two hectares of the paddy field of 36-year-old farmer Anowar Hussain lie submerged. He said he has suffered a loss of at least Rs 1.5 lakh.

What is worse is that for seven months before the lockdown began in March, Hussain had cultivated maize. When it was time to sell in March-April, the lockdown hit the prospects of fetching a good price. Hussain struggled to make ends meet and had to sell one of his cows for Rs 43,000.

Noor Jamal, 25, lives at Satrakanara village in Barpeta district, which is heavily flooded. “In the lockdown, I could not sell our produce of vegetables and jute. And now there is flood water in the paddy field, it will damage the crops,” he said. He estimates the losses at Rs 2 lakh.

Editorial| State of deluge

A majority of Assam’s farmers suffered a double blow this year. At first, the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 hit supply chains of vegetables at the time of sale and the new crop was damaged by the flood that came early this year.

Rajesh Prasad, Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Horticulture, told The Indian Express, “We have flood-resilient varieties of crops that survive flood waters for around 15 days. But this time, the floods came early. Once the water recedes, we will need to find the exact extent of the damage. The damage is expected to be slightly higher than other years.”

According to estimates by the Directorate of Agriculture, crops across 2.5 lakh hectares were submerged and over 9.2 lakh farm families were affected between May 15 and July 14.

“No doubt Assam’s farmers are affected this year. First there was loss due to Covid, around Rs 40 crore in the agriculture-horticulture sector,” Atul Bora, the state’s Agriculture, Horticulture and Food Processing minister, told The Indian Express.

Explained| Why annual floods are essential for the survival of Kaziranga

He said the Centre was extending necessary support and the state government was encouraging banks to help out farmers.

Prasad said the government has prepared a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the situation — first, compensation for the losses according to existing provisions; second, an intensive Rabi cultivation programme and cultivation of short duration crops; and third, insurance for some farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.

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