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Basmati growers rue crop damage due to hailstorm; seek adequate compensation

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Jammu: The farmers of R S Pura, also known as the rice bowl of the Jammu region and the major grower of internationally acclaimed Basmati rice, are in distress after their standing crop was damaged in a massive hailstorm last week.

Three days have passed since the natural calamity struck, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has not yet announced the compensation for the damage as the revenue authorities are still working out the extent of damage caused to the paddy.

“The damage is 100 percent and the farmers are distressed and on the verge of suicide,” 24-year-old Ghara Singh said watching a group of labourers clearing his field of the damaged Basmati crop in Suchetgarh near the international border on the outskirts of Jammu on Wednesday.

Basmati is a variety of long, slender-grained aromatic rice which has famed R S Pura in the international markets.

Singh said he has not seen such a devastating hailstorm in his life as was witnessed on October 24, ruining the six-month long hard work of the farmers besides a huge investment.

“We are concerned as the government is yet to take a call on the issue of compensation to the farmers whose standing crops were damaged,” he said requesting the administration to speed up the process of the crop damage survey and announce a minimum compensation of Rs 15,000 per kanal to each family.

Sher Singh, another farmer, said they were hopeful of a better yield this time but the sudden hailstorm washed away their dreams.

“We attended our crops this time without any fear of Pakistani shelling (in the aftermath of renewed ceasefire between the two countries in February) and were hopeful of a better yield. The hailstorm destroyed everything,” he said complaining that many farmers whose crops were damaged by heavy rains in 2019 are yet to receive the money.

The farmers are faced with another problem of clearing their fields of the damaged Basmati crop as they do not have money to prepare the land for the next crop.

District Development Council (DDC) member Sucetgarh Taranjit Singh Tony urged Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha-led administration to follow the Delhi government model of compensation to the farmers who suffered losses because of the crop damage this year. The Delhi government recently announced Rs 50,000 per hectare to the farmers who lost their crops this year.

“We have not seen such a hailstorm in over six decades which broke the backbone of the farmers. Basmati is the cash crop and a hope for the farmers to meet their annual requirements,” said Tony urging the administration to waive off loan on Kisan Credit Cards and the rent on water pumps.

He also said the standing crops in the entire R S Pura belt were completely damaged and added that the farmers need a hand-holding at this crucial juncture to help them stand on their feet again.

Tony said deputy commissioner of Jammu, Anshul Garg, is personally visiting the areas to review the crop damage and it is hopeful that the government will announce an adequate compensation to the affected farmers without any further delay.

Besides Jammu, the hailstorm has also damaged the standing crops in Samba and Kathua districts.

Meanwhile, dozens of Congress activists, led by former minister Manohar Lal Sharma, on Wednesday staged a demonstration outside the office of deputy commissioner of Kathua and demanded immediate compensation to the affected farmers.

“It is unfortunate that the government is not paying any heed to the problems being faced by the farmers whose standing crops were damaged by heavy rains and hailstorm across the Jammu region,” according to a Congress spokesperson.

He added that the party raised the issue of farmers with the deputy commissioner and later staged the protest to press for immediate compensation to the affected farmers.

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