Bt cotton crop washed away by 0.0mm rainfall
Step into the fields with your shoes on and you realise why it makes sense to walk barefoot like Rameshwar Golewar of Kolejhari in Kalam tehsil of Yavatmal district in Vidarbha's suicide country. Your foot slips till the ankle into the soggy clay-like field. "It has rained so much in the last week that my entire crop is ruined," points out Golewar as he looks around the wilting cotton crop on his 12 acre field.
The rains have brought a double whammy. Not only has the rain halted the flowering midway, but has also led to rampant growth of weeds. "If I employ labour to remove weeds, the cost is prohibitive, so I have decided to use weedicide instead. Even a drop of the strong chemical is enough to destroy whatever is left of the cotton. But what choice do I have?"
Farmers like him are caught in a bind even while agro MNCs with a nod from the government are laughing their way to the bank. Authorities first encouraged farmers in Vidarbha to opt for genetically modified Bt cotton, saying the yield will be huge. Despite initial resistance, aggressive campaigning by brand ambassadors like Nana Patekar saw many a farmer convert in the hope they would make a killing.
"With our native species, even if flowering failed due to excessive rain in the first half of the season, we would still manage at least some yield since the plants flower again. Bt cotton only flowers once and any failure means re-sowing the expensive Rs1,200-a-packet seeds," says Golewar's neighbour, Ambadas Rathod, who is also calculating his losses.
The blitzkrieg on high yield hadn't informed farmers of how high the cost of fertiliser would be or how pesticide-intensive this species is. "At Rs1,000 a kilo, I spent nearly Rs10,000 on fertiliser alone, and a further Rs12,000 per litre on 6-litre pesticide. Now all that money and my hard work has been washed away," says Rathod.
At the Yavatmal collectorate, a tehsil-wise report submitted to the district collector on rain in the past 24 hours tells a completely different story. The figures for Kalam say 0.00 mm rains. When told of the anomaly between the report and the ground reality, collector Shravan Hardikar has an explanation ready: "The hydrometers which gauge rain are located in the tehsil office. It is impossible to keep track of local instances of high precipitation."
None of the farmers can seek compensation for their losses until the local tehsildar and collector send a recommendation with a panchanama of the loss. Once the district administration shows on record that rains are normal, farmers are left high and dry with their rotting crop.
Attempts to involve collector Hardikar on this issue are met with resistance. "I go by figures in front of me. There may be claims of heavy rain, but statistics with me show that we have only got 84% of the total rainfall we get by this time of the year," he insists. "I have visited Yerat and Tipeshwar and the farm produce seems quite healthy. In fact, it looks like we are expecting a bountiful crop this season."
Even in instances when a panchanama was made, farmers got nothing. Both in Kolejhari and in Baarsa, 80 kms away, farmers are still awaiting compensation for losses in 2005-06. "We know that the funds arrived because compensation was given to farmers in villages with the right political contacts. But we are yet to see any money despite numerous costly reminder trips to the tehsil and collectorate office," says Namdeo Jindewar of Kolejhari.
Little wonder then that there is such despondence in the region, and Yavatmal continues to remain the capital of suicide country.