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Posted at: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM (IST)

Monsoon brings misery to farmers

Vegetable growers of Sirmour suffer most, as rain pounded standing crop
Monsoon brings misery to farmers
Balbir Rana, a farmer, shows his damaged pea crop at Tikri village in Haripur Dhar.

Tejaswi Lohumi

While a good monsoon after a dry winter brought cheer to the farmers, it turned out to be a bane for vegetable growers of Sirmour district whose peas crop was destroyed by incessant rain.

Growers of vegetables in the higher and middle ranges of Sangrah and Shilai in Sirmour and the adjoining Kupvi area of Shimla district suffered the most, as rain virtually pounded the standing crop. “Heavy rain during the peak monsoon is common but in this season, it was the abnormal size of the drops that devastated the field just like hailstones, which was quite unusual,” said Balbir Rana of Tikri village in Haripurdhar while narrating his tale of woes.

Normally the short-duration Arkel peas variety sown in the beginning of July is ready for harvesting in October. However, excessive rain has severely impacted the crop and the plants have not grown much this season. Even flowering has not taken place and it is virtually a zero- produce year, he says while pointing to tiny plants in his field.   

This is the second successive crop failure. Earlier, hailstorms damaged the kidney-bean (Rajma) crop sown in March. Last year, Balbir Rana reaped a good harvest and earned about Rs 1.25 lakh by selling peas while the kidney-bean crop fetched Rs 1 lakh. This year even the cost of seeds and other inputs will not be recovered. He had planted around 2 quintals of seed and all his labour has gone down the drain, he laments.  

The farmers are unaware of crop insurance schemes and that adds to their misery. They only look towards the government for relief so that that they could purchase seeds and other inputs for the next season.  

The impact of rain is accentuated because the loamy soil has more clay, as a result of which the fields become prone to water-logging during long spells of rain. Inadequate draining suppresses growth of plants, explains Dr Dhanvir, a former in charge of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Dhaula Kuan. 

 According to Raghu Veer Sharma from Deuri village, who is a priest at the famous Maa Bhangayani Temple in Haripurdhar, most of the people in the Sirmour district are engaged in the cultivation of peas and kidney beans, which are the main cash crops. In the absence of irrigation facility, the farmers are completely dependent on the weather. “There has been a gradual decline in the production of peas in the area. The fortunes of farmers swing between drought and deluge. This year heavy rain created abnormal conditions resulting in waterlogging and ultimately total failure of crop. The farmers of Sirmour are struggling to earn a living and have little or no awareness of government schemes that are aimed at providing financial aid,” he said.

Another farmer Satpal Chauhan points out that the main cash crops of the region are not yielding profit. Besides vagaries of weather, issues like poor quality of seeds and injudicious use of chemical fertilisers have been cropping up. A few years ago, scientists of the Krishi Vigyan Kendra investigated the reasons for the successive failure of garlic crop. They found that soil had lost its fertility due o excessive use of fertilisers and they advised farmers to leave the land uncultivated for three to five years to help it regain its natural vitality. The farmers are also suspecting that quality seeds may also be a part of the problem, but primarily unfavourable weather conditions are to blame for the poor output.

One of the main reasons for the economic backwardness of the region is that the farmers are entirely at the mercy of the weather god. The land is suitable for growing a number of cash crops like ginger, garlic, peas, beans and potato but weather plays the spoilsport more often than not. Repeated crops failures force the people to go out to Shimla and other far-off places to work as labourers and take up other petty jobs to make a living.              


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