food for thought

Torrential rains have already arrived with the Assamese New Year and farmers across the State are worried. The rain gods had played a cat and mouse game with them last year, with four waves of floods sweeping away their crops. The tragedy is repeating with a series of hailstorms last fortnight laying waste their produce in the fields. Farmers of several villages within Chandrapur development block in Jagiroad assembly constituency are fighting a grim battle to save their Boro paddy crop. At any moment, surging waters of the Kopili river may enter the Borchopora stream channel and inundate their fields. The local people have long been demanding a sluice gate to regulate storm waters in the channel, but to no avail. So the farmers are taking matters into their own hands, struggling round the clock to dam the mouth of the channel. All their hopes are now pinned on this earthen embankment. If it gives way to the swollen Kopili, Bodo paddy grown over 50 thousand bighas in the area will be swept away in no time. Assam is an agrarian State, but over six decades — its farmers still have no irrigation support in the dry season and no protection to their crops from floods. Over 70 major embankments breached in previous years are yet to be repaired. For thousands of farmers in nearby areas, saving their crops already seems a lost cause. The State government conveniently blames the Centre for not releasing funds due to ‘political reasons’, but then why has this situation remained unchanged for years on end? Combating floods ought to be a round-the-year effort. This year, the Fince department reportedly maged to release some funds only in February, the Water Resources department began repair works in March, but then the process got stuck as the Revenue department faced land acquisition issues. With no foresight and timely planning, these departments have been muddling their way through as usual. Meanwhile, allegations have again been raised that the motive behind such repeatedly slipshod, irresponsible flood repair work is to siphon away public money in crores. In a State where three-fourth of embankments have been identified as weak, ‘maintence and repairing’ has become a milch cow for corrupt officials, leaving farmers to fight ture on their own.  

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