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Fruit saviour in arid plots

Farmers of Rajoun block in the district have scripted a success story by cultivating fruits and other crops on their plots, which were rendered barren by sand deposits during a flood in 1995.

Before the deluge, farmers of villages like Kushalpur and Amba used to cultivate paddy. But in 1995, their fertile fields became deposits of sand after a flood inundated the area.

Uday Kumar Singh, the president of the Twentieth Point Implementation Committee of Rajoun block, said: “At first, we had no idea what we would do. From the time of the flood to around 2001 or 2002, the condition of the farmers in around half-a-dozen villages in the block was pitiable. Many migrated to other places in search of livelihood.”

Then, some farmers started to cultivate crops that grow even on sandy soil.

“People started to cultivate vegetables and watermelons on their land,” said Singh.

As the business proved to be profitable, more and more people began to cultivate vegetables like cucumber, pumpkin, calabash or bottle gourd and watermelons.

Anandi Das, a farmer in Amba village, now earns around Rs 20,000 by cultivating watermelons on his 1.5-bigha land. “I also cultivate vegetables,” he said.

His wife, Sumitra Devi sells the watermelons on the Bhagalpur-Hansdehia road.

Though making a living is not difficult anymore for residents of the villages, they accuse the government of not assisting them at all.

“There is scarcity of water in the area and no effort has been made to provide irrigation facilities to the farmers,” said Sunil Kumar, another farmer in Amba village.

The problem has been complicated by the activities of the sand mafia.

Villagers said the mafia steal sand from the Channan and its tributaries. As a result, the rivers have dried up completely.

“We don’t get any water from the river. The government should provide an alternative,” said Sunil.

Despite the adverse conditions, the villages are full of success stories.

The money from the summer crops has provided enough income to the farmers to allow their children to pursue higher education.

Many of them have even landed government jobs.

For instance, Amit and Sumit — sons of farmer Subodh Kumar Singh — are both engineers.

While Amba resident Bangali Singh’s son Ajit has got a job with the railway, Basant Singh’s son Rajiv is flying high with a job in the Indian Air Force.