Last Updated on October 23, 2023 by SPN Editor
Imphal/ October 02, 2023 (SPN) | Five months into the conflict, and with a looming threat of crop failure due to inadequate rainfall, the Central government has approved Rs 38.06 crore relief package for farmers in Manipur.
The State Agriculture Department had submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs, seeking compensation for crop losses.
The Ministry has now accepted this proposal to provide a relief package for farmers.
The immediate focus is on expediting the release of this relief package for farmers, ideally by November, according to Agriculture Commissioner RK Dinesh.
An independent survey conducted by the Loumee Shinmee Apunba Lup (LOUSAL), a farmers’ organization, suggests that approximately 9,719 hectares of paddy fields in the valley region could be at risk of crop failure. Farmers are hesitant to tend to their fields due to sporadic firing by armed individuals in the foothills.
The estimated total income loss for the state’s agricultural sector this year is approximately Rs 226.50 crore. Rice production is expected to bear the brunt of this loss, accounting for Rs 211.41 crore or 93.36% of the total loss in agriculture and allied activities.
Among the five crisis-affected districts in the valley (Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Kakching, and Thoubal), Bishnupur is the most severely impacted. The violent conflict has disrupted 5,288 hectares of agricultural land in Bishnupur, constituting 54.4% of the total affected land area.
Farmers in these areas have faced continuous threats from miscreants, with some sustaining bullet injuries while working in their fields.
A team from LOUSAL, led by its president Mutum Churamani, assessed the situation in Phubala and reported that farmers are back to square one. Despite security arrangements, they fear venturing into the fields, especially near the foothills where intermittent firing occurs.
The State Level Monitoring Committee, formed under the initiative of the State Government, had initially provided security cover to protect farmers during the monsoon kharif season. However, this security did not extend to areas near the foothills, which were declared “red zones,” leaving many farmers unable to tend to their crops.
Oinam Brajalala, a farmer from Naranseina, expressed concerns about the lack of access to fields located above the high canal, which had been declared a “red zone.” The diversion of irrigation water and ongoing firing from bunkers further compound the challenges faced by farmers.
Demanding adequate compensation for their impending losses, Brajalala highlighted the potential impact on daily wage laborers and tenant farmers. The situation has left many farmers in substantial debt and unable to send their cattle to graze in the fields.
Agriculture Commissioner RK Dinesh Singh commended LOUSAL for conducting an independent survey and acting as a liaison between farmers and the Department. He stated that the Agriculture Department has already initiated efforts to mitigate the crisis by approaching the Ministry of Home Affairs for funding a crop compensation package.
The Department proposed a package of Rs 38.06 crore for crop compensation, which has been accepted by the Ministry. The immediate priority is to expedite the release of relief package for farmers, ideally by November.
While there may be variations in data between the Government and LOUSAL due to the timing of surveys and changing dynamics, the focus remains on providing swift financial relief package for farmers.
The compensation package of Rs 38.06 crore, funded entirely by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, will cover 5,127.08 hectares of severely affected agricultural areas, as identified by the Agriculture Department in June. These areas are likely to remain uncultivated due to the ongoing ethnic violence.
The Agriculture Commissioner emphasized that the estimated loss for the 5,127.08 hectares was projected to be Rs 38.06 crore, based on the average crop yield of the affected districts over the last three years. The final number of farmers to be compensated will be determined through verification conducted by the Deputy Commissioners of the affected districts.
While several districts are affected by the current crisis, Imphal East, with approximately 21,630 hectares of arable land, has been particularly hard hit by inadequate rainfall. This has left farmers struggling to cultivate their fields, despite receiving fertilizers from the Agriculture Department.
Addressing the issue of water scarcity, Commissioner RK Dinesh acknowledged the challenges posed by global climate change and the region’s reliance on monsoon rains.
The Department is considering short and long-term solutions, including the introduction of various irrigation methods such as ponds, tube wells, canal river lift irrigation, and more.
Efforts are underway to increase the area of irrigated land by introducing tube wells and water ponds, with an additional Rs 70 crore allocated for this purpose by the Central Ministry.
As a short-term plan, alternative Rabi crops will be introduced to farmers in the near future to mitigate the impact of water scarcity.