DHENKANAL:Drought, crop failure, debt burden, man-animal conflict, land grabbing __ many farmers live in a constant struggle. And some give up the fight. In the kharif season this year, more than three farmers have committed suicide in the district. Though 2016 brought bountiful rains, it failed to provide relief to the farmers.
Similarly this year, due to erratic rain and lack of irrigation facilities, more than 50 per cent paddy cultivation in the district have been affected while the rest are under attacks by insects such as Mahinsa, Patramoda, Kandabindha and others. As per reports, at least 90 hectares of paddy field have been affected in Sadar block. Farmers of Kanakdahada and Parjang blocks are the worst sufferers.
Sources said the district has 94,940 ha under paddy cultivation. This year, farmers had cultivated 58,690 ha under broadcast method and 36,250 ha under transplantation, while 15,460 ha of crop fields remained unused.
Similarly, groundnut farmers in several blocks are worried because of crop failure due to insect attack. In kharif season, farmers had cultivated groundnut in 2,920 ha. Despite repeated requests, agriculture officers and scientists are not visiting the farm land to guide the farmers. While quality seeds are not available from Agriculture department, Dhenkanal farmers depend on their counterparts in Jajpur district, they alleged.
On the other hand, local Self-Help Groups (SHGs), money lenders and micro-finance organisations have been exploiting the small and marginal farmers during cropping seasons by providing loans with high interest rates as banks failed to extend support to farming community in time of need.
Due to debt burden and crop failure, at least three farmers committed suicide in the district recently while another farmer is undergoing treatment after attempting to end his life. On September 12, Jaladhar Pradhan of Tipoirana village in Kankadahada block committed suicide by consuming pesticide due to crop failure and lack of irrigation facilities to his farm land.
On Wednesday, a 50-year-old farmer of Beltikiri village under Sadar block committed suicide by hanging in his house. Aswini Sahoo allegedly took the extreme step after failing to repay the loan borrowed from different sources for farming. Similarly, Surendra Rout ended his life over debt burden while another farmer, who attempted to end his life, is now undergoing treatment at SCBMCH in Cuttack.
Sources said several farmers are yet to get their insurance coverage under Pradhan Mantri Phasal Bima Yojana (PMPY) in the district. In Odapada block, only 3,641 farmers have been covered under PMPY.
When contacted, Deputy Director of Agriculture (DDA) Chhabindra Behera admitted the drought-like situation in the district and said the district administration is undertaking a survey to assess the crop loss.
Admitting that the paddy crops have been affected by insect attack in several blocks, District Agriculture Officer Gunanidhi Behera said steps are being taken to check the situation.
Meanwhile, BJP members, led by its national vice-president (Krushak Morcha) Maheswar Sahoo, visited Tipoirana village and interacted with the family members of the victim on Saturday. The district unit of the BJP has also announced that it will stage road blockade at 20 places of the district on Monday demanding that Dhenkanal be declared as drought-hit district. Given the massive range of issues faced by the agrarian community, it is important for both the State Government and the Centre to work together to revive the agriculture sector, BJP district president Bibhuti Bhusan Pradhan said.