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In Maharashtra’s Marathwada, hailstorm destroys hopes of a good harvest

The occurrence of hailstorms during harvesting months has become a common phenomenon for the farmers in Marathwada. Followed by three droughts in three years between 2012 and 2015, the unseasonal rains and hailstorm in parts of Marathwada has ruined hopes of better a harvest.
Raghunath Golde, a farmer from Ravegaon in Jalna, cultivates wheat and soyabean on the five acres he holds. He was expecting to earn Rs1.40 lakh from his yield of 35 quintals of wheat from the standing crops. The hailstorm, that lasted for just 10 minutes, ruined all his hopes as the crop was smashed to ground. Days before, his cotton was attacked by the pink bollworm that resulted in the loss of Rs3.50 lakh that he was expecting from the crop. He says he has been hit by natural calamities consecutively for past few years.
“With satisfactory rains in past two years, I was expecting to make up for the losses I incurred during the drought years. For last two years, it has been either unseasonal rains or hailstorm that has been destroying our standing crops. Delayed rains last year had damaged Kharip and rabi crops of soyabean, pulses, and wheat, among others. The insurance cover given by the state does not work, as many farmers have not taken cover due to the bad experience over past few years. Few crops such as grape are not eligible for the insurance cover, as its area under cultivation at the block level is below the average of the insurance parameter,” said Raghunath Golde, a farmer from Revgaon in Jalna district.
Malhari Pathade, a farmer from Thar village in Jalna, sustained heavy losses as his grape orchard on 10 acres was destroyed. He had sold his orchard with about 2,400 quintal grapes against the advance money of Rs15,000 from a trader. He was expecting to earn at least Rs50 lakh. “I will now end up getting a compensation of about Rs50,000 from the government,” he says.
Tryambak Jadhav, a social worker who is involved in counselling the farmers in Jalna, said, “Hailstorm is a common phenomena in Marathwada over past few years. But the hail stones that poured in February were bigger in size – around 20 mm – against the 6-mm stones in May or June. Secondly, the hailstorm in February proves disastrous as it destroys crops ready for harvesting. It is time to adopt technology to minimise the effect of the hailstorm. China has done it effectively.”
Almost a fourth of the tehsils in Marathwada have been affected by the hailstorm and unseasonal rainfall over the past three days. Standing crops on about two lakh hectares of land has been damaged, which has led to loss of crops of thousands of crores of rupees. The standing crops of wheat, jowar and grapes have been badly-hit in almost all the districts of Marathwada. The farmers have also complained of huge losses to the seed plants of onion and cotton in villages of Waghrul and Revgaon in Jalna.
Eight districts have reported three deaths and injuries to 17 farmers in the hailstorm in three days in Marathwada. 46 cattle have reportedly died, while thousands of chickens have also been killed. The district administration has begun conducting the punchnamas of the losses to the farmers in all the eight districts. “We expect the punchnamas to be completed in next few days. Our village and tehsil level officials have been on the field from Sunday, assessing the losses. The reports in the villages with higher losses may take some more time. The final decision about the compensation has to be taken by the state government,” said a top level officer from the divisional commissioner office.