Chief minister Raghubar Das (left) with agriculture minister Randhir Kumar Singh at a meeting in Ranchi on Friday. Telegraph picture
Ranchi, Nov. 6: The BJP-led government in Jharkhand today announced a special package for agriculture projects to the tune of Rs 1,398 crore to help farmers tide over a crisis triggered by erratic rainfall, the hefty sum appearing rosy on paper but unlikely to bring any immediate relief to most.
Terming the announcement that came after a departmental review by chief minister Raghubar Das in the morning as a "historic" decision, state agriculture minister Randhir Kumar Singh told mediapersons at Project Bhavan that various projects planned under the special package would be undertaken in tandem with the rural development and drinking water and sanitation departments.
But the catch is that many of these plans, like construction of wells, laying of tube wells, deep borings, setting up of agriculture equipment banks at block levels, check dams and launching piped drinking water schemes, are long-term.
Singh, however, disagreed, claiming the government had activated all resources from today and that the chief minister would approve the proposals on priority. He further stressed that the government would ensure the projects were completed on a war footing within a few months.
Among other relief measures the minister announced was the decision to return agriculture insurance premium of Rs 12 crore to around 4.45 lakh farmers.
"Most importantly, we have also decided to resolve all bottlenecks with the insurance companies to settle pending claims of farm insurance for 2010-11 and 2014-15. The total amount will come to around Rs 56 crore," Singh added.
This apart, for the upcoming rabi season kick-starting from November 15, the government has decided to extend the subsidy cap from 50 to 75 per cent for seeds. "Procurement order for around 62,000 quintal seeds for November has been issued," he said, adding that 50 per cent subsidy on kerosene would be given for operating pump sets.
Asked about drought fears, the minister was non-committal.
"We are sending the latest reports to the Government of India today. Thereafter, the chief minister will request the Centre and the Prime Minister to look into the matter. According to protocol, a central team will come for assessment after which anything in terms of special assistance can be expected. But we are doing all we can to assist farmers at our own level," Singh said.
This monsoon, the state witnessed a total rainfall of 908.2mm against the normal average of 1,092mm, which means there was a deficit of 17 per cent.
Only a deficit of more than 50 per cent calls for a drought.
This year, kharif crops sowing has been normal, across 16 lakh hectares in Jharkhand.
The latest assessments of the agriculture department based on block-wise studies say that while rice cultivation suffered a loss of 38 per cent on an average this year, makka (maize) sustained 27 per cent loss, dalhan (pulses) 27 per cent and tilhan (oilseeds)13.5 per cent due to erratic rainfall.
Professor A. Wadood, agriculture physicist and nodal officer of agromet advisory bulletins issued for farmers at Birsa Agriculture University (BAU), said: "Uneven rainfall and improper distribution were the major problems. For example, in June, the state received 150mm rainfall against an average of 250mm. In July, it was 425mm against the average of 325mm. Similarly, in August, around the expected range of 300mm, it rained around 256mm. When seen in totality, it is a mixed bag."
The ruling party's farmers' wing, BJP Kisan Morcha, did not sound too impressed with the sops announced today.
A senior member of the Morcha, speaking to The Telegraph on condition of anonymity, said the government was trying to offer old wine in a new bottle.
"Many of these sops are either existing packages or routine jobs that have been put together in one basket. Jharkhand has around 39 lakh farmers, but all don't opt for agriculture insurance because of lack of awareness. What is in store for them immediately? As far as subsidies for the rabi season are concerned, how can farmers, who have already suffered losses, invest again? Moreover, rabi coverage is just miniscule in Jharkhand," he said.
Kisan Morcha's state president Om Singh, who in the past had led a delegation to the chief minister to request him to declare the state as drought-hit, chose to be diplomatic.
"Farmers should have got something more. We will meet the chief minister once again to request him to announce more financial help. Having said that, today's special package will be beneficial in the long run," he added.