On January 19, two days after a 20-minute spell of hailstorms destroyed the wheat harvest over his 2-acre farm in Amravati’s Bhivkundi village, 33-year-old Anand Panade had decided to end his life. Unseasonal heavy rainfall last June had already wiped out his cotton plantation and left him in a debt of Rs 1.2 lakh. But Panade was stopped by other farmers in his village before he could consume the fatal mix of klinol phenyl and alcohol.
While the government claims to have already disbursed Rs 600 crore of the total relief package of Rs 4,000 crore announced for hailstorm-hit farmers, the situation on the ground is different. All farmers that The Indian Express spoke to in the district said they had not received any aid so far.
An official from the relief and rehabilitation department said 12.75 lakh farmers had to be compensated in all and many had not been reached out to yet.
Panade is one of the 130 families in this small village in Morshi taluka on the border of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. “Lemon-sized” hails started pouring here on the night of January 17 and destroyed the entire standing crop. But the government issued the special compensation package only for villages affected by hailstorms in February and March, angering farmers in this region. “Being a farmer is difficult, but the last two years have made us feel like it is a curse. No aid has reached this village either for last year’s heavy rainfall or this year’s hailstorms. The government knows that hailstorms lashed our village on January 17 but they announced the special aid only for February and March,” said Panade.
The village that has traditionally been voting for the Congress till now is now showing signs of shifting loyalties. Sarpanch Tejabhau Dike, who lost crop on 12 acres, said most farmers had now decided to vote for BJP candidate Ramdas Tadas even though they never saw or heard of him. Wardha is a stronghold of Congress, where sitting MP Datta Meghe’s son Sagar is contesting.
“In 2009, 99 per cent of the votes went to the Congress. But the government has been inconsiderate to us at a time when our losses and debts are at an all-time high owing to natural calamities,” said Panade.
Three farmers who have got pucca houses under the Indira Awas Yojana, too, are not happy. They complain about receiving only 8 hours of electricity for agriculture while the village in MP less than 6 km away receives 18 hours of power.
Only 40 km away from Morshi is the Warud taluka, which was famously termed “the California of India” by Maharashtra’s first chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan. It is the only region in the state that exports orange saplings. The hailstorm on January 17 destroyed 70 per cent of saplings and half of the orange plantations in Shendurjana Ghat village.
Farmer Rajendra Giri, who lost 30,000 of the 90,000 harvested oranges, claimed that an aid of Rs 17 crore announced for farmers in Warud was diverted to farmers in Marathwada and Western Maharashtra.
“This government has neglected Vidarbha completely. We will not vote for the Congress-NCP this time,” he said. He, however, admitted that the extremely poor and uneducated agricultural labourers had always voted for the “panja” (palm) and their votes were generally bought over with money just before the elections.