Sapling solidarity: Erratic monsoon has led to Haryana, Punjab farmers helping each other; here is how

Cultivators in flood-hit villages of the states have received free supply of paddy saplings from their counterparts in safer areas to tide over the losses and avoid a crop-less rice season

By Raju Sajwan
Published: Wednesday 23 August 2023
Labourers replant paddy saplings in Darba village, Patiala, after heavy rain in the second week of July destroyed the month-old plants (Photographs by Aishwarya Iyer)__

“Farmers were in need of help. There was no question of refusing. Fields should not remain vacant,” says Ashok Danoda, a farmer of Danoda village in Haryana’s Jind district, and member of Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, a coalition of farmer organisations from across the country.

After Ashok found out that heavy rains on July 9-10 have flooded villages in Haryana and Punjab, he gave a phone call to Tejveer Singh, a farmer based in Haryana’s Ambala district, and spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (Shaheed Bhagat Singh).

“I had become friends with Tejveer during the farmer protest movement on Delhi borders in 2020. I called him on July 12 to offer supply of ration and items necessary for survival,” says Ashok.

“Tejveer responded that the villages can manage survival, but the paddy is destroyed and if they get saplings they can plant again. I immediately arranged for transfer of a part of saplings from my field. Our village provided saplings for over 300 hectares (ha),” Ashok adds.

Heavy rain in the first week of July caused widespread crop damage in Haryana and Punjab. A July 31, 2023, report by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs says 13 of Haryana’s 22 districts and 14 of Punjab’s 23 districts were affected by floods, with crop loss reported on 216,384 ha and 25,530 ha in the states, respectively.

Mahendra of Gamda village, Hisar, gives saplings to Ranjit Singh

However, arrival of help from farmers in neighbouring districts and state has been prompt and quite phenomenal. Networks of farmer organisations have helped galvanise the solidarity movement.

Take the case of Bhagat Singh, a farmer of Sakhraon village in Ambala, who lost saplings in over 12 ha. “I reached out to head of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (Shaheed Bhagat Singh), Amarjit Singh, who put me in touch with Rajbir Singh of Petwar village, Hisar. The village not only provided me saplings for about 10 ha, but also arranged for my overnight stay when I reached there, because it was too late in the day to pluck the saplings and load them on a vehicle,” says Bhagat.

When Down To Earth (DTE) visited Petwar on July 29, labourers were loading saplings to be taken to another village, Mohri, in the same district. Rajbir of Petwar says that his village has sent saplings enough for transplantation on over 800 ha.

Nalvi, village, Kurukshetra. Ranjit has already made several trips to Gamda for saplings to plant in his 5 hectares, and is now ferrying saplings for other residents of his village. Satyanarayan.
Bhagat Singh (in turban) of Sakhraon village, Ambala, lost paddy on his 
12 hectares (ha) to floods. Farmers of Petwar village, Hisar, provided him saplings to replant on about 10 ha.

There are innumerable such cases. Satyanarayan, known by the name Kala, says that his village Gamda in Jind has provided for saplings on over 160 ha. When DTE visited the village on July 30, Ranjit Singh of Nevli viilage, Kurukshetra, was loading saplings for farmers of his village.

“I had lost paddy sown on more than 11 ha. But Gamda residents have not only provided me with saplings for my field, but also for my friends and relatives. I have already made four-five trips to Gamda village to get the saplings,” says Ranjit.

Almost all districts unaffected by floods have helped out flood-hit areas, say farmers. “The initiative is unique in the country, its scale huge, and farmers all over should learn from it. It also indicates their lack of faith in government relief operations,” says Devinder Sharma, a Chandigarh-based agriculture expert and columnist.

“Saplings are one of the biggest investments in the crop cycle.

It costs Rs 2,500 to plant saplings in an acre (1 acre equals 0.4 ha). In my calucaltion, some 10,000 acres have seen resowing so far, which means the donor farmers have offered help to the tune of Rs 25 crore,” estimates Ashok.

Gamda has been coordinating these help efforts in his village. Rajbir Singh and his fellow residents of  Petwar  village in Hisar, Haryana, have donated saplings that can be planted in about 800 hectares. Most of the help has gone  to farmers of Ambala district  and  Punjab

Ashok Danoda of Haryana’s Danoda village has donated paddy saplings that can be planted in 2 hectares (ha). The village in total has given away saplings enough for about 300 ha

Bund repair

Ambala and Punjab’s Patiala district are the worst affected from the flood. Both lie on the bank of the Ghaggar river, which broke a bund at two places, flooding surrounding villages.

Darba in Patiala is one such village. Tarsem Singh, whose wife is the sarpanch of Darba, says that the bund has not been repaired, though a complaint has been filed with the government many times.

The result is loss of paddy to the flooding and damage to the fields. Jaswant Ram, for instance, has lost paddy on 4 ha and says that the flood waters have deposited a layer of sand on the field, rendering it uncultivable.

“It costs Rs 1 lakh to get the sand removed from 1 ha,” says Jaswant. Tarsem adds that over 200 ha of fields have been destroyed due to sand deposition in the village and it is unclear that the land will regain its productivity.

“The slow pace at which the government-appointed contractor was repairing the bund made us take matters in our hands. We were worried that if the water rises again, the remaining fields will be destroyed. So we approached Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. In the meeting it was decided that farmers will repair the bund themselves. We brought bags full of mud from our village and repaired the bund in three days,” Tejveer says.

Farmers from Sri Ganganagar district of the neighbouring state Rajasthan had also arrived to lend a hand. “They provided feed for our cattle since ours stock had been washed away,” Tarsem adds.

“Over 60,000 ha of crops were damaged in Ambala due to the floods, with maximum loss seen in paddy. But paddy has been replanted on over 30,000 ha. Saplings have been brought from other districts and from Punjab. This is still going on,” says Jaswinder Singh, deputy director of agriculture, Ambala.

“I have seen many floods and droughts, but for the first time I see willingness in farmers to drive across states to help fellow cultivators. Farmer protests have brought Punjab and Haryana farmers closer,” says 85-year-old Ranvir Singh of Petwar.

This was first published in the 16-31 August, 2023 print edition of Down To Earth

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