news Saturday, April 25, 2015 - 05:30
     In a small road off State Highway 17 in the Medak district of Telangana, ten minute away from Gajwel, 36-year-old Arshad sits in his farm, feeding his cattle. “Big chunks of ice and heavy rain fell two or three days ago. It destroyed a lot of the cotton crops that were yet to be harvested. The ones who harvested were lucky,” he says. The village of Dharmareddy Palli and other surrounding villages witnessed the destruction of a large amount of cotton crops after heavy rains and hailstones on the night of April 22.   “I had planted cotton in only one plot and I incurred so much loss. Imagine the people who had planted multiple, large plots,” says Arshad, pointing towards the gram panchayat where a crowd sits hushed and quiet. On arrival, they pour out their grief.       “Months of hard work have just gone down the drain. We grow cotton in the summer and we were just about to harvest it. The crop would have been ready in a few days. What do we do now?” asks one of the villagers. The village, part of the Gajwel assembly constituency which is Telangana Chief Minister’s seat, has been receiving erratic rainfall over the past few weeks. “We were unlucky as the hail fell in the night. At least during the day, we could have run out and covered the crop. At night, it was difficult as our land is not near our house,” says Chinnamma, who was planning to harvest her crop this week.   Though cotton is not predominantly grown in the village, the farmers had their hopes pinned on the crop as the rains that hit the village last week, soaked their paddy and maize crops. The cotton plots somehow survived after a few precautionary measures, but overnight, those were swept away too.   “We have suffered heavy losses worth thousands of rupees, which is a very big amount for us. Our livelihood depends on it,” says Rajayya, the village Sarpanch. Cotton requires six to eight months to mature. In the southern part of India, it is sown around October and harvested anytime between April and May because there is no danger of winter frost, which can spell doom for the crop. “There was a considerable amount of damage done to the crops. Though proper figures are yet to come out, around 20 acres may have been spoilt in the area,” says Siva Prasad, the Village Revenue Officer.   A delayed monsoon, failed sowings, unseasonal rains and unreliable power supply to water the crops are taking their toll. With increasing debt, many farmers in the state are taking to ending their lives. Telangana has one of the highest farmer suicide rates in the country with over 3,000 farmers committing suicide in the past three years, often attributed to such frequent crop failures.   The crops destoryed by hailstones (Nitin B/ The News Minute) A large section of farmers in the village, which has gone deeper into debt since last year, has decided to halt cultivation and migrate in search of other forms of livelihood.   “See this empty plot? I did not even sow anything because there is either too little water, or too much,” says Arshad pointing to a barren tract of land.   “We are barely able to scrape a living with the money we make. How long can we do this? If I go to the city, I can earn more money,” says one of the younger farmers in the crowd.   The National Human Rights Commission on April 23 conducted a public hearing in Hyderabad and has now directed the state government to file a report on the various welfare activities for the benefit of farmers.  The NHRC also directed activists to create more awareness among the farmers on better farming practices.   Addressing a review meeting held at Erravelli village of Medak district in November, KCR had announced Rs 25 lakh for each village in his constituency. “Occasional compensation comes in from the government. Little amounts here and there. But how will it be enough for all the problems that have come to us at once?” asks Rajayya.   
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