Farmers in Assam have been hit by a misfortune this year that they have probably never faced earlier. In 10 of Assam’s 35 districts paddy crops have been destroyed by caterpillars. In the districts of Golaghat, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Barpeta, lbari, Lakhimpur, Kokrajhar, Majuli and Dhubri the paddy-swarming caterpillar, Spodoptera Mauritia have hit our paddy crop in millions, spelling devastation and penury to hundreds of farmers. Altogether 17,418 hectares of land under winter paddy or saali rice (grown between June/July and November/December have been destroyed by these caterpillars in the last few days. This mece, coming close of the heels of the devastating floods, has ruined many families of cultivators. The worst affected district is Golaghat, with 6,671 hectares of paddy fields affected. The next on the list is Dibrugarh with 5,000 hectares. These two districts alone account for 11,671 hectares or 67 per cent of the paddy crops destroyed. Obviously, the entire expanse of 17,418 hectares could not have been affected at the same time. These caterpillars usually come floating in water en masse and settle down at the bottom surface of tender leaves. Had the Agriculture department been alert and responsible, it could have stalled the spread of the mece by timely spraying of pesticides. But almost everyone is familiar with the lackadaisical and unconcerned ways of the Agriculture department. The minister concerned should initiate strong discipliry and punitive measures against the officers responsible for failing to take timely preventive measures and let the public know what he has done.
The Caterpillar Mece