NAGERCOIL: Take the road between Putheri and Kesavanpudhur in Nagercoil and you will find heaps of bananas, some ripe, some raw, on the flanks at various locations. An occasional motorist stops by to enquire the price, fishes money out of his pocket and drives away with bunches of plantain that come for a steal.
This is a scene playing out across the region after cyclone Ockhi wreaked havoc, flattening banana trees as well, forcing farmers into a distress sale. While a full bunch of bananas would have normally fetched the farmer `300, it is now being sold for as little as `10 to `50. What is worse, most of the farmers cannot expect any compensation for the devastation wrought on their livelihood because they had taken the land on lease.
For, government relief normally goes to the land owner, not the lessee. Behind the wry smile a 60-year-old plantation farmer hides the agony of seeing the hard-earned fruits of his labour go for next to nothing. “I leased out a one-acre tract for `1.5 lakh a year. The input cost of seeds, fertilizers and measures to save the fruits were extra.
We were banking on this season’s income to wipe off old debts. Ockhi has killed all hopes,” he says. Another 65-year-old farmer haggles with a customer and settles the deal for `30 before speaking to Express. “It’s next to impossible for us to get the compensation as we would have to show land documents, which would be impossible for us to furnish. It’s the land owners who stand to gain from our losses.”