How this year’s ‘monsoon with a difference’ is impacting farmers in Bengal

Farmers in several districts of Bengal engaged in cultivating paddy, vegetables, sesame and groundnut have incurred heavy losses due to this year’s truant monsoon

By Sudarshana Chakraborty
Published: Friday 20 August 2021
The monsoon in Bengal has seen phases of heavy rains as well as dry spells. Photo: @rickysohel / Twitter

The southwest monsoon this year has had a highly irregular trajectory. There were heavy rains in June in parts of India. After this, it stalled. There was extreme rainfall in some states. Now, it seems that the monsoon will withdraw a month late, like last year. All this has led to heavy losses being suffered by farmers in many states, including West Bengal.

Farmers who cultivate sesame and peanuts in Bengal have faced huge losses during May and June in Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura and Paschim Medinipur districts.

Paddy cultivation has been ruined in a few areas of Paschim Medinipur and Hooghly. It is still under threat if there is heavy rain in the last leg of the monsoon as predicted by the India Meteorological Department.

Farmers who cultivate seasonal vegetables in many parts of southern Bengal have faced losses due to heavy rains during July, which has resulted in the hike of vegetable prices.           

This reporter spoke to farmers in various parts of Bengal to find out how the change in the monsoon pattern had affected them.

Tales of woe

“We sowed paddy seedlings in the end of July. Then, there was heavy rain. Our whole area was completely waterlogged. I have more than nine bighas (Three acres) and I had invested approximately Rs 8,000 per bigha. All that has been lost,” Prasanta Jana, a sharecropper from Khanakul in Hooghly district, said.

Khanakul is one of the areas where heavy rains in July created havoc. The bigha is a traditional unit of land measurement in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Its size varies from place to place.

Jana is now sowing paddy a second time. He is worried that he will be ruined again if it rains heavily for a second time.

He also cultivates peanuts during the summer. This year, five of his 10 bighas where he had sowed peanuts, were destroyed due to heavy rainfall. He had invested Rs 14,000 per bigha.

He cultivates potatoes in the winter but laments that he never gets proper prices for it. “We are not getting any financial support from the government despite being sharecroppers. Where will we go?” Jana sounds helpless.

Read: All in a day: Dry northern districts have excess rain after July 13 shower

Sharecroppers do not get any financial support from the state government as they cannot provide the documents which are needed to avail that. They thus have to bear the entire loss themselves.

The West Bengal government provides Rs 5,000 per annum (Rabi and Kharif seasons) assistance, with a minimum of Rs 2,000 per annum on a pro rata basis to farmers who have one or more acres of  land under its Krishakbandhu scheme.

Registered farmers under the Krishakbandhu scheme have also not received any financial assistance from the government so far this year.

For more on the floods in southern Bengal, click here

Vegetable farmers in southern Bengal were particularly hit after the heavy rains in July-end. Farmers of Amta, Udaynarayanpu, Uluberia in Howrah district have faced losses.

Sujay Manna, a vegetable and paddy farmer from Uluberia, Howrah, who has five bighas of land said he has lost almost all of his vegetables like ridge gourd, bitter gourd, cucumber, eggplant, etc which he usually cultivates during the monsoon.

He invested almost Rs 80,000-90,000 in the vegetable cultivation during this monsoon, which he has lost.

Farmers in districts like Bankura too have faced losses. Usually, rainfall is low or normal in Bankura. But this time, it has been heavy. Rajib Hansda, a farmer from Sarenga, Bankura said it started raining heavily in July-end after mostly medium rains in the beginning.

Hansda has three-four bighas of land where his family usually cultivates paddy.

When it started to rain heavily, water was released from dams into rivers and canals. At that time, Hansda did not preserve water. Now, it has not rained in the past few days. Consequently, his land is dry.

Other farmers in the area are also facing similar issues. They are looking forward to the administration opening canals to supply water to their lands.   

Another district badly affected by floods is Paschim Medinipur. Liaqat Ali’s family has 10 bighas of agricultural land in Keshpur where he cultivates paddy.

The seedlings which he sowed in June-July have been ruined. He is now risking a second sowing. Ali said he himself had not received any seeds. But some of his fellow farmers had received two-four kilograms of seeds from the village administration.

“The money we receive from Krishakbandhu, Rs 5,000 in each installment, has helped us a bit,” he said. Ali lost Rs 24,980 till date in the first sowing.

“Now, I am borrowing this amount for the second time, a double investment in one season. The picture is the same in the entire district,” Ali said. 

Souren Chatterjee from Burdwan, an organic farmer said farmers in some flood-prone parts of Burdwan now sow jute and some vegetables instead of paddy during the monsoon. They have thus avoided huge losses this time.

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