Small and marginal farmers in seven villages of Soegaon taluka in Aurangabad have suffered losses worth Rs 40 lakh as one night’s heavy rainfall has destroyed their cotton and ginger crops. Panchnamas still not done; farmers have no money for second sowing
Arrival of monsoon is eagerly awaited in mriga nakshtra (falls in June month) by the dry-land farmers of Marathwada, a semi-arid drought-prone region of Maharashtra. Rain in this time period is important for the sowing of kharif (monsoon) crops. Farmers believe sowing in this nakshatra will bring them higher crop yields.
And, it did rain in Soegoan taluka in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, about 600-km from the state capital Mumbai. But, the very heavy rainfall on the midnight of June 11-12 has ruined farmlands of small and marginal farmers, as it has washed away their kharif sowing, households items and even some cattle. The pre-season cotton (which is called white gold), ginger, taro (Arbi, a tuberous root) crops of the farmers is destroyed over 250 acre area in seven villages of Soegaon.
“We know it rains during the onset of the monsoon, but this year the rainfall on one particular night of June 11 was so heavy that it not only damaged our fields and crops, but also our houses,” Ishwar Shivaji Sapkal, a resident of Tidka village in Soegoan told Gaon Connection.
Sapkal’s standing crop of cotton is destroyed. The run-off has washed away the fertile topsoil, too. The fodder for his cattle is gone. He may have to undertake second sowing for which he does not have money. Several farmers in the taluka had already taken loan for the first sowing, as they failed to earn anything in the last three months due to the coronavirus disease lockdown.
Though Soegaon taluka comes in Marathwada, it is adjacent to the Khandesh region whose 60-70 per cent terrain is hilly and run-off gushes down. During the midnight of June 11-12, thunderstorms and very heavy rainfall (146 mm in 24 hours) struck Tidka, Nandgaon, Ghosala, Umarvira, Bahulkheda, Jarandi, Kankrala village in Soegaon taluka. Within minutes, farmers like Sapkal lost almost everything.
Cotton crop over 200 acre area and ginger over 50 acre area has been damaged. Till now, the farmers had already invested Rs 52,000 for ginger crop (seed, tractor, diesel, labour, pesticides, etc), and Rs 7,150 for cotton crop. This comes to a total loss of over Rs 40 lakh within a night’s heavy rainfall. The district authorities are carrying out panchnamas. And till that is complete, farmers cannot undertaken second sowing. And delay in sowing means loss of kharif crop season.
Also, re-sowing is an expensive affair. Re-sowing cost for cotton and ginger is Rs 2,000 per acre and Rs 14,000, respectively.
On June 15, Gaon Connection visited Soegaon taluka to speak with the villagers and get a first-hand report of the damages suffered by the local farmers. Since this is a back-of-beyond area, media channels and reporters rarely reach there.
I had already taken a loan for the first sowing
Now, how can I do second sowing?
Sundarbai Hari Pardeshi, a widow and resident of Wakadi village, was collecting the broken pipes of drip irrigation system from her field, which once used to irrigate her cotton crop. Both cotton crop and drip irrigation system were destroyed.
“I have only two acres of land. My sons do not live with me. I had planted cotton crop on my field by taking a loan. But it rained so heavily in the night that it washed away everything,” she told Gaon Connection as she wiped the tears with the edge of the saree.
“I took loan for the first sowing and bought cotton seeds. Then, I worked on another farmer’s field for four days at Rs 200 a day wage. I did not take any payment from him, instead requested him to do my sowing. He did so using bulls and tractor. And now I have lost everything,” she added.
Pardeshi, in her 60s, said she has no money with her to undertake second sowing. “Seeing my age no one gives me loan as they think I won’t be able to repay due to my old age. I have lost all hope,” she lamented.
We will take a loan and do the double sowing.
But what about the fertile topsoil that has been swept away?
The plight of Ishwar Shivaji Sapkal of Tidka village is no less. The heavy rainfall of June 11-12 night not only swept away his cotton and taro crops, but also washed away the fertile two feet topsoil of his field. “I had sown pre-season cotton on 10 acre land of which the crop on 20 guntha has completely been swept away. The fertile topsoil and the drip irrigation system is gone, too. I had stored fodder (leaf remains of groundnut crop, maize crush) for the cattle and that also is lost,” he said.
The silt from other fields has buried the cotton seeds deep into his field. At some places, a silt layer as thick as one foot has come on Sapkal’s field. “The cotton crop won’t grow. And the ginger I had planted, which was just springing up, is washed away,” he added.
Already due to the lockdown, farmers have been facing a very difficult time. And the recent sowing failure has added to their misery. “No officer of the agricultural department has come to enquire about our losses. No one cares what happens to farmers like me, he added.
If it rains less, we lose crops. If it rains more, we suffer losses.
Punam Valmik Pardeshi, in her mid-30s, lives in Tidka village. Few years ago, her husband fell from a high tree and broke his hand. About Rs 1.5 lakh was spent on his medical treatment, and he cannot do heavy work. The entire responsibility of the household, including education of their two sons, is on Pardeshi’s head.
“I have about two acres of dry land on which I plant cotton, as it is a cash crop and fetches us some money. But, that is not sufficient to feed my family, so I work as a labourer in other people’s fields to earn Rs 150-200 a day,” she told Gaon Connection. “If it doesn’t rain, we lose our crop. If it rains, we lose our crop. We are cursed,” she added.
Like other farmers in Soegaon taluka, standing cotton crop was washed away from Pardeshi’s field, too.
Saraswati Sapkal, a farmer from Tidka had planted arbi on her three acre land. A large chunk of her crop has been washed away in the recent rains. “In the last 50 years of my life, I haven’t seen such rainfall in our region. Of the total three acre land, arbi crop on ten gunthas is completely swept away,” she told Gaon Connection.
“My husband died when my son was seven months old. Since then I have survived by working as a farm wager on other people’s fields,” said 52-year-old Sarala Saudane from Wadgaon village. “If it rains less, I don’t get any work. And if it rains heavy, again I don’t get any work. Apart from my son, I has also to look after my old parents,” she added.
Because of the lockdown, she did not get work in the last two to three months. Although her son is in the high school, he has started taking up odd jobs to feed the family. “The recent rains have damaged the agriculture fields in our taluka. How will I find work? How will my son complete his education?” she asked worriedly.
On being contacted by Gaon Connection, Pravin Pande, tehsildar, of Soegaon said: “People living in slums in Kankrala were shifted to gram panchayat and given essential commodities in the morning. Some stored grain was washed away in the rains. Around six bulls, chickens and goats were swept away. Panchnamas have been conducted and compensation will be awarded immediately.”