Siliguri, Aug. 23: State agriculture minister Naren De today conceded that the state government was not in a position to save all the drought-hit land holdings in north Bengal by utilising the available groundwater reserves in the region.
In a candid statement at a news conference here, the minister admitted that they are helpless in the case of lands which neither fall within the irrigation area nor have the support of minor irrigation devices like pump-sets and tubewells.
“As an interim arrangement to save the crop, we have asked for the proper utilisation of the local infrastructure to take out the ground water and supply it to nearby fields,” De told reporters. “However, holdings located in areas bereft of minor irrigation facilities cannot be salvaged as most of the water bodies here have dried up.”
The minister, who was here on a one-and-a-half-day visit along with cabinet colleagues Rabindranath Ghosh (co-operatives), Murtaza Hussain (relief) and Paresh Adhikary (food), said they have decided on some initiatives:
- Optimum utilisation of ground water through minor irrigation equipment hired from private owners
- Distribution of seeds for alternative crops like mustard, wheat, lentils and corn free of cost. These crops take less time to be harvested and have a good market
- Distribution of vital fertilisers and micronutrients like 10-26-26 and Boron to farmers free of cost
- Extension of temporary electric connection in remote areas in association with WBSEB for minor irrigation
- Rescheduling of loans granted to farmers in the beginning of this season and if possible arrange fresh loans for them
According to the figures read out in the news meet by the minister, the total loss has been pegged at Rs 800 crore across north Bengal, as the state sustained a loss of 10,25,350 tonnes.
De admitted that the state government has limitations in the field of irrigation and simultaneously mentioned that they would take steps in this regard.
The Darjeeling district administration formally declared drought in certain areas of Siliguri subdivision today. In an official release, the additional district magistrate informed that on the basis of the reports filed by principal agricultural officer of Jalpaiguri, 112 of the 334 mouzas in the subdivision have been declared drought-hit. These are spread across four blocks — Matigara, Naxalbari, Phansidewa and Khoribari.
The total area affected in 22 village panchayats is around 11,870 acres with the loss estimated around 23,620 metric tonnes, the release said.