Farmers brave natural, human challenges to sow seeds
Source: Chronicle News Service

Imphal, July 12 2023: Farmers in the state, constituting the majority of the population, are facing an unprecedented crisis due to a combination of humanitarian challenges, dwindling rainfall, and constant threat of attacks by Kuki militants.

The region has been grappling with climate change and global warming, exacerbated by rampant deforestation for illegal poppy cultivation in the hill areas.

As the monsoon season sets in, the paddy fields in the state wear a barren look, devoid of farmers' presence due to the imminent threat posed by Kuki militants.

These militants have set up numerous bunkers in the foothills surrounding the valley area, overlooking the patches of paddy fields.

However, despite the looming threat to their lives, some farmers had adopted unorthodox methods to continue their farming activities under security cover.

The People's Chronicle recently visited peripheral villages in Irengbam-, Leimaram, Kabowakching, and Kang-mong areas in Bishnupur and Imphal West districts to interact with the farmers and understand their predicament.

Farmers explained that the usual steps for paddy cultiva -tion, such as tilling, waterlogging, levelling, seed sowing, and transplantation among others, have been compromised due to the constant fear of attacks.

They have been forced to sow seeds by tilling the dry soil just once, unable to arrange for irrigation water or wait for rain amidst the ongoing crisis.

With no other option left, these farmers now hope for adequate rainfall in the coming days for even a modest harvest.

However, if they are unable to tend to their crops due to persistent violence, crop failure looms large over them.

To address the security concerns, the government has taken up measures to protect the farmers from potential attacks by militant groups.

Columns of Gorkha Rifles guard the farmers in the hills, while BSF troopers were deployed for the protection of farmers in the valley.

From Tuesday onwards, state forces have replaced BSF in the valley areas.

Farmers are allowed limited time to work in their fields each day, and in the event of any suspicious activities!, security forces ensure their evacuation to prevent any unwanted incidents.

Farmers revealed that the government had initially restricted them from working in fields located beyond the high canal, which is fed by Loktak Lift Irrigation.

However, vast tract of paddy fields fall within the restricted areas, compelling farmers to operate beyond the canal, continuously exposed to threats on their lives.

Fortunately, with the intervention of local MLAs and the state government, security forces have started providing cover in these areasf bringing a slight sense of relief to the farmers, even though the threat of attacks still exist.

In Kangmong Langoljam Mayai Leikai, under Konthou-jam assembly constituency of Imphal West district, the villagers depend on a reser voir located in Tongai village in the nearby hills for their drinking water supply via a pipeline, which Kuki militants destroyed when the violence started in May.

The villagers managed to repair the damages only to get destroyed again by the Kuki militants in mid-June.

As Tongai village is currently occupied by Kuki militants they have not been able to repair the pipeline since then.

As a result, the villagers are purchasing drinking water from private water tankers at high rate to survive.

Furthermore, the paddy fields in the area receive irrigation water from Sajirok, also located in Tongai village.

The irrigation stream was initially blocked by Kuki militants during the violence.

Although the blockage was removed by health minister and Konthoujam MLA Dr Sa-pam Ranjan some 10 days ago, the Kuki militants occupying the hill village blocked the stream again the next day.

As a result, the farmers have been deprived of irrigation water and have been compelled to sow seeds on dry soil, solely hoping for substantial rainfall in the days to come.

The farmers are deeply concerned about the potential repercussions, as a poor harvest this season would severely impact food security not only for themselves but for the entire state.

These farmers are hoping for a comprehensive support from the government and relevant authorities to mitigate their plight.

They want the government to take up immediate measures to ensure their safety, facilitate access to irrigation water, and address the underlying causes of the humanitarian crisis and environmental degradation.

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