Kulpahad, Mahoba. Farmers from several villages came together to submit an application to the Sub Divisional Magistrate here on 21 July, a vocal reminder that as farmers across north India ready themselves for the monsoon and the sowing of the new crop, some are still reeling from the shock of the poor harvest of the previous cycle.
Unseasonal rainfall in April and May had a severe effect on the crops of most farmers in eastern and central Uttar Pradesh, and many are still waiting to receive the paltry compensation from the state. This aside, some farmers haven’t been compensated for losses they incurred as far back as February when there were hailstorms in parts of Bundelkhand. ‘I’ve been coming to the administrative offices for the last 6 months. I’ve spoken to various officers but no one seems to know when I’ll receive compensation,’ said Munnalal of Mudhari village. Many farmers who signed the application addressed to the local administration seem to have been caught somewhere between paperwork and administrative apathy. ‘Each time they ask us to produce some document or the other. Farmers from my village have submitted photocopies of our updated passbooks on a number of occasions but it doesn’t seem to be enough,’ said Maan Bahadur, a farmer from Tolapur village.
The delay in payment of compensation is frustratingly common in such situations. In Bundelkhand, unexpected turns of weather have ended the agricultural season over the last 2 years and this year the Rabi crop in the belt took a hit. According to a report by national organisation Action Aid, 54 farmers in Bundelkhand committed suicide between March and April 2015. The farmers are caught in a vicious cycle of losses, insufficient compensation and loans. The situation is worse for agricultural labour working on others’ fields, who are not eligible for compensation and are left at the mercy of their landed employers. Even those who own land of their own have been driven to desperate measures to get compensation, like a farmer from Tendura village in neighbouring Banda district, who was quickly handed over some compensation after he tried to hang himself.
Predictions for a weak monsoon are adding to the anxiety of these farmers, as they await the entitled support from the state. Ramkripal from Natarra village and Arvind from Pahadiya village sit on protest in the Tehsil premises in Kulpahad with ropes. ‘If we don’t get what is due to us, we will hang ourselves. We’re desperate now. Hailstorms hit Mahoba months ago in February and we still haven’t received any compensation. The only option we had was to take a loan from the bank. Where will the money to repay that come from?’ asked a visibly frustrated Ramkripal. ‘We haven’t been able to sow seeds for the next cycle because there is no money to spend on seeds and irrigation. Still there is no sight of receiving compensation in the near future,’ said Arvind.
The Kulpahad Tehsildar Ram Ji said that the process of distributing compensation is largely dependent on lists submitted by lekhpaals (government employees who keep a track of land in villages). ‘We have been sending out cheques through lekhpaals to some villages. More are being sent out and lekhpaals have been asked to send in lists of farmers who have submitted losses,’ he said. The Agriculture Insurance Company of India had predicted, as early as May, that Uttar Pradesh was likely to top the list of claims of insurance, especially because of the huge blow to crops in Bundelkhand. The company had paid an amount of over 5,000 crores in insurance claims to the state government for the period 2014-15. Yet, thousands of farmers across our biggest food producing belts still wait for that paltry cheque.
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