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Nuapada farmers in grip of third year of drought
A one-day visit of Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) Bishnupada Sethi to Nuapada district on Tuesday has created much hope among the farmers here. This was quite evident from the interaction of farmers with the SRC in villages that they are under severe distress. Every farmer was desperate to show his crop field to the SRC with the hope that his situation would be listed in Government record.
The way the SRC listened to people’s grievances and expressed his concern to the media on drought situation created hope. Even, the leaders of political parties who accompanied the SRC through his movement in the district said, “It seemed the Commissioner understood the problems; and we hope he will give report in favour of the people.”
Drought, after wrecking devastation in the district consecutively for last two years, has played havoc this year too. “Drought this year will have much impact on our living because it is repeating,” people of Khasbahal village of Khariar block had said to this correspondent last year during August when the drought was looming large.
Farmers faced massive loss in past two years. Neither the input subsidy provided by the Government nor the insurance paid by the insurance company could match that loss. The consequence of a third year repeat is easily conceivable.
Kalabati Sabar of Khasbahal had spent Rs 50,000 last year in cultivation of three acres of land; and out of that Rs 35,000 was loan from private sources.
“The loan remained unpaid and added to that is the burden of the borrowings for the current year,” she says. Not only Kalabati, farmers everywhere in the district are frantically looking for Government support to get rid of the debt trap as well as food insecurity. Labour brokers are hovering around to snatch the opportunity of a distressed labour market as the people are desperately searching for alternative livelihood options.
The district administration says the MGNREGS is one of the alternatives, but what the people of Samserpadar and Chicher villages of Khariar block revealed before the SRC exposes how this programme has miserably failed to address the situation of joblessness in the villages.
The villagers have not been paid their wages although more than a year has elapsed. The failure of the job scheme to address the job requirement is quite visible in other villages too. The block officials have found a simple way to befool the labourers.
“We have done our work; your fund transfer order has been submitted online, but the payment has not been released by the Government,” they say. The workers in turn don’t understand what to do. The MGNREG Act makes provision for compensation for delayed payment, but nothing comes true.
“We will never work under MGNREGS again,” say the workers. “We have repeatedly complained about it to the BDO and even to the Collector in the monthly grievance meetings, but in vain,” they add.
The scanty rainfall in July and August this year gave a clear indication that a severe drought was looming large, which forced many farmers to take advance from labour brokers to work in brick kilns outside the State. Some farmers have already migrated and a large numbers are preparing to leave.
Ghatu Parabhoi of Haripur village of Komna block is one such marginal farmer who migrated to Hyderabad in August after Nuakhai with other five. Each of them had received Rs 3,000 as advance. Ghatu could not bear the torture by the contractor there, managed to escape from the kiln with another worker and returned to the village. “The other four are still there in the kiln being tortured severely by the drunkard contractor,” says Ghatu.
This is an example of how the failure of agriculture in a district like Nuapada plays devastation in the lives of farmers.
Villagers say, “Drought in Nuapada is not new; the problem is that the Government has failed to address the problem. Why the irrigated area of the district has remained below 20 per cent,” asks a farmer of Chindaguda village who has 10 acres of land but is never confident that the land will sustain his family of five.
Even big farmers with more than ten acres of land also hold the same opinion. “The delay in completion of the Lower Indra Irrigation Project and the low quality of its works has created hopelessness among farmers.
The status of the deep bore well irrigation scheme is also the same. Thousands of farmers in the district are waiting for years for installing bore wells after depositing their shares. Corruption is rampant in all programmes and schemes. Things will not change if such a situation continues to prevail,” say the villagers.
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