₹ 38.06 cr earmarked to compensate violence-hit farmers
Source: Chronicle News Service / DIPR

Imphal, October 01 2023: Five months after Manipur descended into a spiral of conflict, coupled with insufficient rainfall pointing to the possibility of crop failure, food insecurity, and threat to livelihood of the restive state's people, the agriculture department has come up with a crop compensation package worth Rs 38.06 crore as relief for ethnic violence-affected farmers.

According to an independent survey conducted by the farmers' organisation Loumee Shinmee Apunba Lup (LOUSAL), a total area of around 9,719 hectares (Ha) of paddy fields in the valley may face crop failure because farmers are afraid to go to their fields due to sporadic firing by armed miscreants from the lower foothills.

The entire income loss for the state in the agriculture sector this year is estimated to be around Rs 226.50 crore.

Paddy cultivation will suffer the greatest loss, amounting to Rs 211.41 crore, accounting for 93.36% of total agriculture and related activities, followed by livestock farming.

According to the report, of the five crisis-hit valley districts -Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West, Kakching and Thoubal -Bishnupur is the worst affected in terms of agricultural land area, with 5,288 Ha, accounting for 54.4% of the total land area of 9,718 Ha, followed by Imphal East with 1770 Ha and Imphal West with 1765 Ha.

Bishnupur, which borders Churachandpur, has been one of the most vulnerable districts.

Farmers from Phubala, Sunusiphai, Naranseina, Khoirentak, Kumbi, Sagang, Torbung, Wangoo, and Khoijuman Khunou have been among the hardest hit, and some of them had sustained bullet injuries.

"The current situation is such that our farmers are back to square one", said a LOUSAL team led by its president, Mutum Churamani, who assessed the situation in Phubala.

"Despite the security preparations, many are afraid to go out to the fields to tend to the paddy plants".

Churamani stated that since the outbreak of unrest in May, farmers have been hesitant to go to their fields because they are largely located near the foothills, where occasional firing occurs.

He said: "By July, with security arrangements, we somehow managed to send our farmers to initiate tilling and prepare for sowing and a state level monitoring committee was formed".

It may be mentioned that the State Level Monitoring Committee to mitigate the agriculture sector crisis was founded at the initiative of state government officials such as the commissioner and director of the agriculture department, as well as five other farmers' organisations.

Following the committee's recommendation, the Manipur government began providing security cover to farmers throughout the monsoon kharif season for agricultural works.

For this, 2000 security officers were redirected by lowering VIP protection cover, with district commissioners in impacted districts urging farmers not to venture out for farming activities without adequate security due to the volatile situation.

Oinam Brajalala, a farmer from Naranseina, said that security forces deployed at the foothills have barred access to the paddy fields located above the high canal.

"They have declared the area as 'red zone'.

We are not sure whether if we will be able to harvest the paddy we have grown.

The water for irrigation has been diverted by miscreants.

How is it possible without water? We never know when they will stop firing towards the held from their bunkers," he added.

Demanding adequate crop compensation from the government over the impending loss, Brajalala continued that daily wage labourers will also be hard hit if there is no harvesting.

"Most of us are tenant farmers, we will be under huge debt.

What have we come to? We can't even send our cattle to graze in the fields," he rued.

Agriculture commissioner RK Dinesh Singh while com mending LOUSAL for conducting an independent survey and for serving as a bridge between the farmers and the department, maintained that the agriculture department in order to mitigate the current crisis, has already swung into action and approached the ministry of home affairs for funding a crop compensation package as relief for affected farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by the ethnic violence.

"The department has proposed to the Ministry of Home Affairs for a package of Rs 38.06 crore as crop compensation.

The good news is that the proposal has been accepted by the Ministry.

Our priority is to speed up the process of releasing the relief package to the affected farmers as soon as possible, at least by the month of November," RK Dinesh said.

While admitting that there will be differences in the data of crisis-affected paddy-fields prepared by the government and farmers' bodies depending on the time of the survey, methodology used for estimating crop yield loss, and the changing dynamics of the current crisis, the agriculture commissioner reiterated that the government's priority is to provide financial relief to affected farmers as soon as possible.

Funded wholly by the ministry of home affairs, the compensation package, totalling Rs 38.06 crore, will cover 5127.08 Ha of severely affected agricultural areas identified by the agriculture department in June as "areas likely to remain uncultivated due to current (ethnic violence) situation," including 539 Ha in Imphal West, 633 Ha in Imphal East, 37 Ha in Jiribam, 597.83 in Senapati, 581 Ha in Thoubal, 273.35 Ha in Chandel, 2191 Ha in Bishnupur, and 275 Ha in Churachandpur.

RK Dinesh revealed that the estimated loss for the 5127.08 Ha is calculated as Rs 38.06 crore using average crop yield for the affected districts for the last three years and areas where cultivation may not be possible.

He also pointed out that the final numbers of farmers to be compensated Will be subject to verification of the affected farmers being conducted by the deputy commissioners of the affected districts.

Aside from the current unrest, insufficient rainfall has exacerbated the issue, and Imphal East district has been hit the hardest, with about 21,630 Ha of arable land, the second largest in the valley.

When asked on how the agriculture department planned to deal with water scarcity, the commissioner said that it has been a major concern with the global climate crisis and the state farmers' dependence on monsoon rain.

He added that it would involve both short and long term actions to address the concerns like adoption of different irrigation methods such as digging ponds, tube well, canal, river lift irrigation, etc.

"Areas under proper irrigation are very little.

We are trying to increase the area of irrigated land as a long-term plan by introducing tube wells and water ponds.

For that purpose, our scheme funds have been enhanced by Rs 70 crores through the central ministry," RK Dinesh said, adding that as a short-term plan alternative Rabi crop would also be introduced to the farmers soon.

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