Delta farmers in dire straits

With Karnataka rejecting the Prime Minister’s directive to release 9,000 cusecs per second (0.75 tmc ft) of Cauvery water, Tamil Nadu is in a quandary on how to irrigate the Samba crop in the delta districts.

Farmers in this vast region of 11 districts below Mettur have begun samba cultivation in 15 lakh acres and would end up with huge losses if Karnataka remains adamant. Consequences could be grave: breach of law and order due to farmers suffering heavy losses.

“We need the water to be released at once. Delays and shortages would be disastrous”, said P. Kalyanam, general secretary, federation of Cauvery farmers’ association, based at Aarupadi near Mayiladuthurai. His statistics are scary.

According to him, the farmers have spent minimum of Rs 20,000 per acre to raise the Samba crop and that could mean a total investment of Rs 3,000 crore.

“We will lose all this money if the Cauvery release, which is already delayed, is denied. It would lead to collapse of the state’s rural economy and socio-economic upheaval in the delta districts”, Kalyanam said.

Farmers in the delta region point out that the entire Samba cultivation should be completed before September end to overcome flooding of the fields during the torrential rains in the northeast monsoon of November-December.

The crop must be grown up to three feet by the monsoon time to avoid submergence. “Due to this adamant attitude of Karnataka, our cropping pattern and the Samba season have collapsed”, said a farmer.

He said the paddy yield would drastically come down if Mettur release got delayed. For instance, the total yield of Kuruvai, Samba and Kaaladi during 2002-03 season was around 9.94 lakh tones in 3.69 lakh hectares because Mettur water was opened on September 19, while the yield was 11.03 lakh tones in 3.56 lakh hectares when the Mettur was opened on October 7 in 2003.

But the yield was 31.88 lakh tones in 5.25 lakh hectares when the water was released on the ideal date of June 12 in 2006.

“Karnataka should pay compensation of Rs 3,000 to each Tamil Nadu farmer if this Samba crop gets wiped out”, said Kalyanam. “If Karnataka refuses to pay, the Union government must pay up”.

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