Farmers bear brunt of Manipur violence, MHA to give Rs 38 cr

| Updated: 01 October, 2023 7:45 pm IST

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has approved a package of Rs 38 crore as crop compensation proposed by the Manipur Agriculture Department for the farmers in the restive state which has been gripped in a spiral of conflict, coupled with inadequate rainfall pointing to the probability of crop failure, food insecurity and a threat to the livelihood.

“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,” said R.K. Dinesh, the agriculture commissioner.

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An independent survey conducted by Loumee Shinmee Apunba Lup (LOUSAL), a farmers’ body, claimed that a total area of around 9,719 hectares (Ha) of paddy fields in the valley could be facing crop failure as farmers are afraid to go into the fields because of sporadic firing by the armed miscreants from the lower foothills.

A team of LOUSAL led by its president, Mutum Churamani, who had come to take stock of the situation at Phubala said, “the current situation is such that our farmers are back to square one. Despite the security arrangements, they fear to venture out to the fields to take care of the paddy plants.”

Bishnupur district, which shares a boundary with Churachandpur, has been one of the most vulnerable districts. Farmers of Phubala, Sunusiphai, Naranseina, Khoirentak, Kumbi, Sagang, Torbung, Wangoo and Khoijuman Khunou are among the worst hit, and some of them have even sustained bullet injuries.

Churamani informed that since the beginning of violence in May, the farmers were uncertain of going to the fields as they are located mostly near the foothills, wherefrom intermittent firing takes place.

“By July, with security arrangements, we somehow managed to send our farmers to initiate tilling and prepare for sowing,” he said, adding to that end a state level monitoring committee was formed.

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The state level monitoring committee to mitigate the crisis in the farm sector was formed under the initiative of the state government authorities such as the Commissioner and Director of the Agriculture department, along with five other farmers’ bodies.

Following the advice of the committee, the Manipur government started providing security cover to protect farmers during the monsoon kharif season for agricultural work.

For the purpose, 2000 security personnel had been diverted by downgrading VIP security cover with district commissioners of affected districts appealing to farming communities not to venture out for farming activities without security arrangement considering the volatile situation.

Although the farmers were still trapped in the violence crisis. Oinam Brajalala, a farmer from Naransaina, said “security forces deployed at the foothills have denied access to the paddy fields located above the high canal.
They have declared the area as a ‘red zone’.”

“We are not certain if we would be able to harvest however little paddy we have grown. The water for irrigation has been diverted away by miscreants. Without water, how is it possible? We never know when they will stop firing towards the field from their bunkers”, he added.

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Demanding adequate crop compensation from the government over the impending loss, Brajalala continued that daily wage laborers 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.

Beside the current violence, inadequate rainfall has worsened the crisis and Imphal East district is the worst hit, which has around 21, 630 Ha of arable land, the second largest in the valley.

A farmer from Sabam Lamyai village confided that he had tried sowing paddy seeds five consecutive times but failed. “Due to scanty rain, and over and above abject failure of the irrigation system, farmers like us are completely helpless this year. The agriculture department gave us fertilizers a month back. What’s the use if there’s no water in the field”, he pointed out.

Asked on how the agriculture department proposed to deal with water scarcity, the commissioner admitted that it has been a major concern with the global climate crisis and the state farmers’ dependence on monsoon rain. He maintained 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 wells, canal river lift irrigation etc.

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“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”, the commissioner said.

He added that as a short-term plan alternative Rabi crops would also be introduced to the farmers soon.

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