The Congress Party has demanded that the government declare locust attacks in the country as a natural disaster and farmers be given compensation under the crop insurance scheme.
The demand came after swarms of crop-destroying locusts attacked crops in Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and western Uttar Pradesh, reported Press Trust of India.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, said, “Today, more than 10 lakh hectares of farm land has been affected by locust swarms, but no relief has been provided to farmers.”
Insurance companies are refusing to compensate the farmers for losses caused by the locusts under the crop insurance scheme because Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not declared the locust attacks as a natural disaster, Mr Surjewala said.
“There is a great deal of anxiety among farmers in Rajasthan,” said Mr Bhagirath Choudhary, founder director of the Delhi-based South Asia Biotechnology Centre, speaking to Livemint. However, the locust incursions could inflict only minimal damage (on early sown cotton and pearl millet) since crop fields were empty but the situation could be different in July after the planting of summer crops is over.
“As a remedial measure the central government should designate locust attacks as a natural disaster. This will enable farmers to claim insurance compensation. It is beyond the means of individual farmers to manage swarm incursions,” Mr Choudhary added.
The extent of damage to kharif crops inflicted by locust swarms will largely depend on whether the menace is contained in states like Rajasthan and Gujarat. If the swarms reach farther to states like Maharashtra and Bihar, the damages could be heavy.
Mr K L Gurjar, deputy director of Locust Warning Organisation, the federal agency which issues early warning and helps states in pest management, said locust incursions could pose a problem this month due to crops in fields, but added the agency is well prepared to tackle the menace.