The land of paddy has completely been devoid of sufficient rainfall for the past year, making it extremely difficult for the rice farmers, rice traders and rice mills to even sustain
By Vashita Sharma
Bengaluru, April 20, 2019.
As the sun sets the bus stand gets crowded with farmers loaded with heavy bags on their shoulders standing in a queue waiting for the bus to take them to Bangalore.
Around 40,000 paddy farmers have faced a financial setback. Out of 22 rice mills, 6 have already been shut as they were unable to cope up with losses they were adversely hit with. These are some of the impacts of scanty rainfall in Manvi taluk in Raichur, a place which has been devoid of rainfall and has been put under the category of a drought prone area.
Paddy farmers don’t have the produce to feed themselves let alone the nation as Girish Patil, a paddy farmer, said “Last time it rained in September 2017 after that it hasn’t rained at all. I have 6 acres of land out of which I have sown only 1 acre of paddy this and due to no rain Tungabhadra dam doesn’t have sufficient water either.
Whenever it rains sufficiently, I produce 40 bags per acre and as it never rained this time, it’s difficult to even sow in 1 acre and with that I’ll produce 15-20 bags only and have faced 80 to 90 percent loss.”
Tungabhadra dam and underground were the main source irrigation for the farms but both are depleting as Girish continued, “We used to get underground water from about 2 to 2.5 inches now we merely get it for one inch. The underground water has a lot of fluoride content which is very harmful for the soil and the water from the dam, we haven’t received it this year.”
Talking about adapting an alternate means to earn, some of them have given up their land on lease to be able to secure their basic meals Subhana Ahmed, a lessor, said, “I own 10 acres of land, and I’ve given it out on lease. It’s a lot of burden to grow paddy especially when there is completely zero produce. It’s been 5 years the production of paddy keeps diminishing every year. It’s very difficult to even find buyers for paddy now, everyone knows the state of growing paddy, the investment is much more than the output you get. I got this buyer with a lot of difficulty too. I had taken up a loan of rupees 4 lakh to support my family of 10 members but I’m not sure when will I actually be able to repay it back to the bank. It’s difficult to survive.”
Afzal Bazir, an immigrant said, “We haven’t been getting sufficient water supply, either from the dam canals or the rainwater or the underground water which makes the entire produce negligible. I went to Bangalore 5 months back and I work as a casual laborer there. I left growing paddy only so that I can earn something to support my family. I come to Manvi once in two months to visit my family and hand in some money.”
Chamarasa Malipatil (state honorary president, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha) state farmer’s activist supported and said, “In our taluk we have more than One lakh acre of paddy out of which this year only 30,000 acres have been utilized. We have 40,000 paddy farmers engaged in paddy farming. Since 5 years, we are not getting sufficient rain for either kharif or rabi crop. Especially this year we didn’t get rain at all. so in this Tungabadra canal project, there is no water management system because of lack of engineers. As per my knowledge 94 engineers are missing. The water we are supposed to get from the canals is supposed to irrigate 6 lakh acres of land. In the upper regions so many illegal irrigation projects are taken from the farmers with the help of their public representatives. We are not getting water because of illegal irrigation in the upper regions.”
He continued, “Karanataka is facing drought in 156 taluks, Manvi is one of them. Government itself has declared it as drought prone area. The government has asked the center for compensation of Rs. 1800 crore but the center has given only Rs. 949 crore, it is not sufficient for all the losses. Presently in our area more than 40% people have migrated to big cities like Bangalore, Goa, Mumbai farmers are totally fed up of this and mostly all of them have become defaulters in banks and still owe money lenders.” The government schemes are reaching these people in need. “For example in 2016 farmers from this area had paid a premium for Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, and the same thing happened like the drought occurred, so Government declared Manvi as a drought prone area. Till today the farmers have not received compensation. Some of them have recovered just a part of it” said Mali Patil.
Shortage of rainwater has had its trickling effect on rice traders and milk owners.
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Abdul Patel, a rice trader said, “when it rains, we get 20,000-25000 bags of rice we trade and used to earn Rs 6 per bag. Now that there is no paddy production, there’s a 70 to 80 per cent loss and it’s difficult for me to run my shop or run my house.. A lot of people have given up on rice trading as a business for the same reason. Farmers directly go to the mill owners and delete the middleman.”
About 300 workers have been retrenched out of 1100 workers employed in the rice mills and they could not face the setback.
Srikanth S, a mill owner said, “Whenever it rains we get 30,000 to 40,000 bags per month and when it doesn’t rain, we barely procure 10,000-15000, resulting in a 50 percent loss. There are 50 members working in my mills, when we don’t get bags from Manvi we have to go 100 kms further to procure paddy which has a high transport cost. And now that there’s less availability of paddy, the price of rice is going up.”
Meera, an environmentalist, said “Manvi has come under the category of a drought prone area. The farmers should reduce growing water intensive crops and switch to dry crops such as chilly, cotton etc. They should also start water harvesting and make ponds to reserve water for the plants.”