Growers seek right to plant rice in prohibited zone

Friday, June 19, 2009 (The News International)
By Jan Khaskheli

KARACHI: Sindh Small Growers Association has expressed concern over the hostile approach of government officials, who have started destroying standing crops in different districts.

The government officials argue that there is a ban on cultivation of paddy in Ghotki, Mirpurkhas, Khairpur, Nawabshah and Sanghar districts so the growers should not cultivate the crop there. Officials say that the districts where paddy crop is cultivated have been declared cotton zones for long. Secondly, they say paddy crops consume more water, which they cannot afford to provide at a time when the province needs more water. The third reason is that the paddy crop may cause increasing salinity in the area.

However, the growers condemning the government authorities say the decision was taken after one month of crop cultivation.

Sindh Small Growers Association President Hassan Askari said had the government taken this decision earlier in February-March this year, the farmers would not have sown the crop. “Now when they have cultivated the land, spent sufficient amount on fertiliser and pesticides, the government has taken a sudden decision, which has shocked several small growers.”

The officials have warned the growers to destroy the crop themselves otherwise they would take action and eliminate the crop with a chemical spray. They told the farmers they would stop canal water and impose Rs5,000 fine per acre with three-month rigorous imprisonment.

The growers say that the landlords having links to power corridors are exempted from this action. When big landlords have cultivated paddy on 500-1000 acres why similar action was not taken against them. Why this irresponsible action is being taken against the poor farmers?

Hassan Askari said there is no alternative for the growers as the season of the crop cultivation has ended. Secondly, he said most of the farmlands in Sanghar district have turned saline due to shortage of fresh water and affects of the Chotiary Reservoir. Therefore, they cannot see a better option regarding their future except paddy cultivation.

Askari tracing the history said in 1932 the then British rulers declared areas of Sindh for different crops and Sanghar was assumed on the top crop producing area where presently 105 cotton ginning factories exist. He said now farmers are unable to grow cotton or grains or any crop other than the paddy in present situation.

He recalled that in 1992 torrential rains destroyed the entire cotton crop of the area and growers had sown paddy to come out of crisis. Similarly, in 2006 rainstorm affected cotton crops and growers cultivated paddy as alternative. Frequent mealy bug attack is another problem facing cotton growers to change trend.

He said some of the growers tried to raise sugarcane to replace the cotton but failed as the crop consumes more water, which they did not have. Again some of growers of Sanghar district cultivated paddy in 2008 but the government did not take action.

Growers are of the opinion that the sudden spell of rains in March had affected paddy crop in northern districts of Sindh, which are declared paddy-zones. They say southern parts of the province where trend of paddy cultivation is on rise should be allowed for the sake of averting the crisis.

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