As they sow, so they weep — Ground Report from flood-hit villages in Haryana
In the villages of Ambala in Haryana, the floodwaters have receded but the real disaster is unfolding now. There is a blanket of malba on the once green paddy fields. Kharif sowing has to be repeated and seed costs have shot up.
Brijendra Dubey 19 July 2023 12:14 PM GMT
Ismailpur/ Chourmastpur (Ambala), Haryana
There is silence. And, there is mud, tonnes and tonnes of it, slathered over every available surface. A few farmers stand here and there, curiously expressionless.
“We have to start from scratch,” Harbans Singh told Gaon Connection, as he stood ankle deep in the slush that was once his paddy field.
In Harbans Singh’s Ismailpur village in Ambala district, Haryana, not a single farmer has been spared by the recent floods. Several states in north India including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh have been hit too.
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Excessive and continuous rainfall led to several rivers rising by several feet and washing away everything in their way. The flooding of the Ghaggar river resulted in the Satluj Yamuna Link Canal (SYL Canal) breaching its banks and inundating Ismailpur village and its surrounding areas earlier this month.
Ismailpur in Ambala district is one of the 416 villages in Haryana that is waterlogged. Thirteen districts in the state have been lashed by rains and according to official data 29 deaths have been reported due to the rains and flooding. Hundreds and thousands of hectares of land are drowned. An official estimate is yet to be released.
There is a blanket of malba on the once green fields and according to the farmers there, even their homes have not been spared. They have been without water or food. Silt has flooded all the fields and homes of the villagers. Roads are covered with several inches of slippery mud.
This is bad news. Punjab and Haryana, are considered the food bowl of India, and such excessive damage to the paddy crops can only spell worry for the country. The farmers in the area said that earlier this year their wheat crops had not fared either, again due to excessive and unseasonal rainfall. They had pinned their hopes on the paddy, and now the floods.
Sacks of fertilisers, pesticides, even fodder for the cattle have been either washed away or completely damaged in Ismailpur as well as the neighbouring Chourmastpur village.
The flood fury may have abated and the waters receded, but it has left unspeakable chaos and despair in its wake. No one knows where to start.
“All we know is, we cannot keep the fields unplanted. If we have to eat, we have to plant the paddy again,” Jagdish Singh, who had cultivated about 4.5 acres of paddy in Ismailpur, told Gaon Connection.
“I have not seen a flood like this in all my life. We came to know when my neighbour woke me up. There were places where the water was five feet deep,” Madan Das, a 64 year-old farmer from Chourmastpur, told Gaon Connection.
Thousands of acres of land in Ismailpur and Chourmastpur had paddy growing, but not even a blade of grass is visible.
“We have to start all over again,” Harbans Singh repeated, partly to himself. “Everything is gone, not a single grain of paddy survived. I must have spent about Rs 50, 000 on my eight acres of land. I had planted hybrid paddy. I had paid for the labour, the seeds, and so many other things,” he trailed off.
Farmers are angry. “No one from the government has even enquired if we are dead or alive. Whether we need water or food,” Harbans Singh lashed out. “It is only thanks to the Kisan Union that we have been able to feed our families. They distributed rations worth Rs 2.5 lakhs in the village,” he added.
There is silence again as a few of them pull out wilted remains of the paddy crop.
Tractors will just get bogged down and are of no use anymore this time around, Jagdish Singh said. Nearby, a yellow JCB stood, perhaps waiting to at least get rid of some of the silt.
“Labour charges have doubled. Seeds are selling at anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4, 000 a kilo. I have no idea how much I will have to spend to clean my field and start the sowing again,” he said. “But sow I must. I can’t be sitting around hoping the government will give me something. They never do,” he said and turned away.
The farmers have to get seeds from as far as Kurukshetra, Hissar, Karnal and other places in the state.
“It is costing us anything up to Rs 6000 a kg. And this is without the transportation costs,”Harbans Singh said
Both villages that Gaon Connection visited in Ambala, Haryana, are in a shambles. In places there is knee deep slush and silt in the fields. Homes have been abandoned. Garbage is washed up. “But, we will deal with all that later. Our main focus is now on replanting as quickly as we possibly can. The rest is up to God,” said Jagdish Singh.
“We had no prior knowledge. In about an hour’s time everything was gone. Even now, we are unsure. It could flood again. But, we can’t sit around doing nothing,” Harbans said as he watched one or two wisps of what might have been his paddy bob away.
Written and edited by Pankaja Srinivasan.