In these winter zones, farmers often cultivate only one crop a year in the autumn and this loss has left them anxious about surviving the cold months ahead.
Udhampur: “Every time we go out for hoeing the maize saplings, the rain and hailstorms start. Till now, our net sown area of around 5 kanals [1 kanal is equal to 0.125 acres] of land has been devastated by unseasonal hailstorms four times,” said an anxious-looking Guddo Devi (26), as she was preparing the firewood to make dinner for her three children. She lives in the remote Pounsa hamlet in the Chenani tehsil of Jammu's Udhampur district and like her, many farmers in the surrounding areas of Udhampur have lost their crops to hailstorms.
does not hail in Jammu in June, but this year unseasonal rainfall and
hailstorms have wreaked havoc by damaging standing crop in over hundreds of kanals
in the winter areas of Udhampur district.
Agriculture in Jammu’s hills
plains of Jammu where maize crop is sown in May-June and harvested in
mid-September, in Jammu’s winter zone areas, maize kernels are sown in the month
of April, on Baisakhi festival, and harvested in the month of October. The
winter zone areas include Udhampur’s Pounsa, Satyalta, Malaal, Patnitop,
Panchairi, Dudu-Basantgarh, Kulwanta, Pattan, Latti and major parts of Doda,
Ramban, Reasi, Kishtwar, and Kathua districts.
most people in Jammu’s upper reaches either grow mustard, which can withstand
negative temperatures, or do not grow anything at all, since these areas receive heavy
snowfall in between December and March. So, most farmers in the hills of Jammu do
farming for sustenance unlike in the plains where farmers grow commercial crops
twice or thrice a year on vast and fertile lands.
people in Jammu’s higher reaches grow only one crop in a year, once the
harvesting is done in October, they take up labour work in winter in Udhampur town,
Jammu, Amritsar and Delhi.
“But this year and the last, my five brothers and I couldn’t even earn from labour work due to the pandemic,” said Bittu Ram (53), son of Mani Ram of Malaal area in Satyalta village. His crops suffered massive damage due to the hailstorms. “I have around 15 kanals (1.875 acres) of agricultural land and I grow maize, rajma (kidney beans) and amaranthus seeds during Baisakh (April) month every year. Normally it rains in May-June in our hills but hail is not normal. The four to five recent hailstorms have completely uprooted the maize saplings that we had grown two months back.”
Guddo Devi sits by her hearth at Pounsa village of Satyalta Panchayat. More than half an acre of her maize crops have been destroyed in the hailstorm (Picture courtesy: Bivek Mathur)
30 households in the remote Malaal village of Satyalta panchayat. Maize crop of
all the Malaal residents got completely ravaged by the recent hailstorms.
Reasons for untimely hailstorms
According to Sonam Lotus, director, Meteorological Department, Jammu and Kashmir, the hailstorms in Jammu and Kashmir are “not unseasonal”. “Rather their frequency has increased due to more local developments this year,” he said.
the local developments, he said, “The months of April and May have been
categorised as ‘hot weather months’ by the Indian Meteorological Department
(IMD). In this period, India’s northern region, including J&K, experiences
thunderstorms, hailstorms accompanied by gusty winds due to western
disturbances and local developments, particularly convection.”
the frequency of these western disturbances and local convection was very high,
resulting in more hailstorms and hence more damage to the crops in the higher
reaches of Jammu,” explained the weather scientist.
if the frequency of windstorms and hailstorms will increase with the advent of
monsoon in July in Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “This phenomenon cannot be
the sarpanch (village head) of
Satyalta Panchayat, which has a population of around 3,000, said that the
panchayat has 17,000 kanals of total agricultural land. Of this, he said that
maize, rajma, amaranthus, pumpkin,
beans and other hilly crops are grown on about 10,000 kanals of land.
“Around 90 per cent of these 10,000 kanals of agricultural land has suffered damages due to the hailstorms and incessant rainfall this year,” claimed Pal.
Partially damaged maize saplings in Guddo Devi's fields at Pounsa village of Udhampur district (Picture courtesy: Bivek Mathur)
if he had approached the administration to assess the losses so that farmers
could be compensated, the Panchayat head replied, “Our area is not motorable.
So government officials hardly visit our hilly villages. They assess the losses
on mobile phones only. I’ve briefed our patwari
(local revenue official) on the phone. Let’s see how much they pay the affected
Majid, the patwari of Patwar Halqa
Satyalta, admitted that some of the hilly areas in Satyalta have suffered
extensive damages due to hailstorms. “Our teams are on their toes to assess the
losses. A detailed report shall be prepared and sent to higher-ups,” he said
adding, “Most probably, by September, the farmers would be compensated.”
Kumar, a farmer in Ramnagar Tehsil’s hilly Basantgarh block said crops have
been badly damaged by the hailstorms in Basantgarh, Dudu, Pachond-I, Pachond-II,
and Jakhed areas. “Maize, rajma, amaranthus,
French beans, squash, apricot, walnut, and apple crops have been destroyed. While
vast lands in Basantgarh hills have suffered crop damages, farmers in low-lying
areas are not able to sow the maize and other crops due to recurring
hailstorms,” he explained.
Waiting for relief
While the farmers
wait for compensation, many believe it may not be able to make up for their
believes that the compensation that would be paid to the farmers would be
“insufficient” “and till that time (by September) most farmers would be in a
state of financial crunch since they grow only one crop in 365 days and don’t
have an option to earn from labour work as well.”
“I am of
the opinion that government should sensitize these farmers and advise them to
shift to some alternative crops suitable to the climate of these hills,” he concluded.
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