Pulwama farmers worried over ‘rice blast’ disease, seek compensation

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They don’t cooperate, use traditional varieties, then blame agriculture department: Official

Jahangeer Ganaie

 The farmers in several areas of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district have complained of heavy loss due to the rice blast disease.

The distressed farmers told the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that they are worried due to the disease as around 50 percent of their crop gets damaged every year. They lamented that no steps have been taken by the concerned authorities to reduce the damage.

The disease, as per the farmers, has hit the crops in parts of Rakh, Zahidbagh, Niloora, Nowpora and other adjacent areas in the Litter tehsil of Pulwama.

“We suffered losses due to the disease in paddy, and are very much worried as it will reduce rice production in the area this year,” Tariq Ahmed, a farmer from Litter, said.

“Last year, we complained before the concerned authorities about this disease and asked them to conduct soil testing programmes in our area. However, despite assurance, not a single official or representative came,” he said.

The farmers said the disease is affecting their livelihoods as they don’t have any other source of income.

Gul Mohammad Bhat, a farmer from Zahidbagh, said despite spraying as recommended by the authorities, the paddy on around six kanals of land has suffered damage due to the rice blast. He said more damage is on around two kanals.

The government must take cognisance of the issue and provide compensation to the affected farmers accordingly, he said.

An officer of the Agriculture Department told KNO that the rice blast affects the old varieties of paddy only while the varieties provided by the department have been giving bumper crops every year.

Despite organising awareness camps, the farmers still resort to traditional varieties and then blame the department, the official said, adding that the farmers must work in cooperation with the department so that the disease can be eliminated once and for all.

Those farmers who have been covered under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna will get the insurance amount while the details of those who have not registered under the scheme will be compiled and it will be forwarded to higher officials for consideration of compensation.

The official requested the farmers to avoid sowing traditional varieties and implant disease-resistant varieties like SR2 and SR4

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