Maharashtra government has received applications of over five lakh farmers claiming damage to crops due to pink bollworm infestation and they will be compensated through seed firms and disaster relief fund, Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar said in Assembly today. “We have reports from over 20 districts of Maharashtra claiming that the cotton crop is damaged due to pink bollworm. We are in the process of panchnamas and the damage caused to the crop spread over 4.90 lakh hectares in the state,” Fundkar said while replying to a discussion on problems being faced by farmers.
The ruling BJP yesterday found itself cornered in the Lower House after it came to fore that officials have failed to brief Fundkar on the issue of pink bollworm infestation. Fundkar today denied the oppositions charge that the state government was shielding seed companies from any possible action against them over the pest attack.
“Over five lakh farmers have given application claiming damage to the crop. All these farmers will be given compensation through seed companies, insurance claims and disaster relief fund,” he said. However, the opposition remained unconvinced as the minister did not announce the quantum of compensation to be paid to cotton farmers. Prior to the winter session, Opposition leaders had demanded compensation worth Rs 25,000 per acre for affected farmers. “The government is making claims that the farmers will get compensation, but is not ready to contribute on its own. The minister must announce the amount today to extend relief to farmers,” NCP MLA Ajit Pawar said.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis intervened saying the government would analyse the losses and ensure that every cotton producer is given the benefit. Opposition has been demanding immediate relief to farmers saying that Bt cotton seed “BG II” has failed to protect cotton from the pink bollworm attack in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. Opposition members yesterday alleged that though the government was aware that BG II seed lacked potential to prevent pink bollworm infestation it purposefully didnt act as it “wanted private seed-producing companies to be benefitted”. Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil (Congress) also slammed the government for failing to make any “concrete” announcement to benefit affected farmers.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “I doubt how much financial assistance could be given to seed companies, as the seed law is weak. It is not sufficient to prosecute the companies and get enough compensation for farmers”. The opposition members then boycotted the proceedings over the governments inability to announce the compensation amount.