JAMMU: Yet to come to terms with the losses suffered in the devastating floods in 2014, farmers in Jammu district received another rude shock when the state government issued them compensation cheques ranging from a meagre Rs 32 to Rs 113.
Refusing to accept the paltry dole, the farmers returned the cheques saying the PDP-BJP government has "rubbed salt into their wounds".
Farmers in Saroor village of Marh tehsil of Jammu district were recently issued cheques of crop compensation ranging from Rs 32 to Rs 113 by the State Agriculture department after a joint survey conducted by agriculture and revenue officers with regard to damage caused by the September 2014 floods.
"Rs 32 is the minimum and Rs 113 maximum amount being paid as compensation for flood damage caused to crops to the farmers of the area", farmer Balbir Singh Saini of Sarora said.
Another farmer Mast Ram received a cheque of Rs 32, while widow Bholi Devi got a cheque of Rs 75. Another farmer Shamsher Singh received a cheque of Rs 47.
Other farmers from the village including Nagar Singh, who received Rs 94, Ram Dass from Sarora who got Rs 94, Bachan Singh from Marh who got Rs 94 and Karan Singh of Sarora who received Rs 113 said the cheques were signed by the Sub Divisional Agriculture Officer, Marh (HQ) Talab Tillo, Jammu.
Farmers and members of the panchayats have registered their protest with authorities and hit out at the government, saying crops worth thousands of rupees were damaged due to hailstorm, rains and floods and they were expecting justice.
"It is an insult to us. We had suffered losses worth thousand of rupees as floods in river Tawi battered thousands of acres of farmland in the area. Some of the areas have been washed away", Sarpanch Marh, Vijay Kumar Sharma told PTI.
The Sarpanch said that "instead of helping us re-establish ourselves after the huge losses, the BPJ-PDP government has not only played a cruel joke with us but rubbed salt into our wounds".
Director Agriculture, Jammu, S S Jamwal said the compensation has been given according to Central CDRF norms.
"A joint teams of agriculture and revenue officials have prepared the list and as per Central CDRF norms this compensation has been released", he said.
He said the department is now conducting a review of the compensation issue.
Asked about the meagre compensation given to farmers, Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Marh, Atish Gupta told PTI, "We have received a memorandum from farmers on the compensation by agriculture department. We are just studying it. I don't know much as I have joined the post few days ago".
Minister for Irrigation and Flood Control Chodhary Sukhnandan, who is the local MLA, did not respond to repeated calls.
Farmer Balbir Saini said, "Majority of the farmers got agitated after receiving the amount and have returned the cheques to the officers".
According to farmers, 15 acres (120 kanals) of farm land and about 40 percent of their crops including rice was affected in the September 2014 floods.
In view of protests by the farmers, the officials of the agriculture department have stopped the cheque distribution process.
The Marh Sarpanch said no leader dared to distribute these cheques fearing public wrath.
Led by Congress General Secretary and former Legislator Balwan Singh, the farmers held protests in Marh and presented a memorandum to State Governor N N Vohra through SDM Marh.
"This is an insult to the farmers of the tehsil. They deserve support and help to re-establish themselves and instead the BJP-PDP government, which they have voted to power, has played a cruel joke and rubbed salt into their wounds", Singh said.
"BJP got votes from Jammu people but surrendered before Kashmiri leadership," the Congress leader said, adding this will not be tolerated.
Naib Sarpanch from Marh area Jagdish Raj said it was better if the Government had straightway denied the compensation to the farmers.
"By issuing these cheques, they have added salt to the wounds of affected farmers. Such provocative acts of the Government are basically making the farmers commit suicide", he said.