The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt counts hailstorm damage

Calcutta, March 17: The government today declared the cost of the hailstorm that lashed the south Bengal districts on Wednesday.

Crops on 51,500 hectares and an estimated Rs 142 crore were lost, it was said. About 40,000 farmers were affected.

Director of agriculture N. Trivedi said at Writers’ Buildings Hooghly, Bankura and North 24-Parganas were the worst affected districts. The crops damaged include boro paddy, potato, wheat, banana, mango and other seasonal vegetables.

Trivedi, however, asserted that the damage would not have any impact on prices in the open markets across the state.

“In Hooghly, the damage is 100 per cent. All crops have been destroyed. The damage is worth Rs 58 crore,” said Trivedi. Crops in parts of Purulia, West Midnapore and Nadia have also been destroyed.

A delegation of legislators from Hooghly, including MP Rupchand Pal, co-operation minister Naren De, fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee and minister for libraries Nemai Mal met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today and informed him about the havoc. Many houses and several school buildings were damaged as well, they said.

After the meeting, De said the chief minister had assured them that he would provide money for the repair of school buildings from his relief fund. Besides, Rs 3 crore will be released to Hooghly for relief work.

The chief minister asked the authorities in the affected districts to arrange quick payment for those who had their crop insured.

Trivedi said agriculture officials submitted a report on the devastation today and minister Kamal Guha had convened a meeting on Wednesday to discuss how the farmers could be assisted in planting some cash crop immediately.

In Hooghly, crops on more than 20,792 hectares were destroyed, Trivedi said. About three lakh tonnes of potato went waste in Tarakeswar, Haripal, Singur, Arambagh and Goghat blocks. In Bankura, crops on 10,000 hectares and 12,000 hectares in North 24-Parganas were destroyed. Nadia lost crops on 5,000 hectares.

After potato, officials said, the worst hit crop was wheat. “Wheat was wiped out from 1,500 hectares.” Trivedi said most of the potato and wheat crops were insured and the district magistrate of Hooghly met panchayat officials today to discuss ways to expedite payment to the farmers.

Referring to the surplus potato in the state, he said if necessary, the government would buy 10 per cent of the produce (about 90 lakh tonnes) under a Central scheme.

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