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Drought-hit Assam farmers threaten suicides
K Anurag in Guwahati | August 29, 2006 17:31 IST
Assam's farming community, reeling under the most erratic monsoon in over 100 years, has warned of suicides if the government does not act fast and provide emergency drought relief.
The Assam Rajyik Krishak Sabha, the apex organisation of the farmers, has urged the government to launch relief operations on a war footing to avoid a disaster and work out a strategy to tackle the unprecedented drought.
"Contrary to what the government has been saying, there is real drought in the state and not just a drought-like situation. We demand that government declare drought in all the 22 affected districts in the state," ARKS president Nizamuddin Khan said.
Over 12 lakh landless agriculture workers in Assam have been affected by the drought this year and many of those would be forced to commit suicide if the situation doesn't improve, he said.
The organisation, which has over two lakh farmers as its members and is affiliated to the All India Kishan Sabha, has demanded that the government create alternative source of livelihood for agriculture workers.
The Assam government had on Friday declared drought-like situation in 22 districts of the state and urged the central government to advice and guide it in tackling the unprecedented situation.
The state, infamous for perennial floods, hardly has a proper irrigation system in place to cope with such unprecedented deficit rainfall. Farmers have said that due to the absence of proper irrigation facilities, even the spring crop would be affected this year.
Comparing the situation to that in West Bengal, the ARKS criticised Assam government for allocating only Rs 1.64 crore for the 22 'drought-hit' districts of the state while West Bengal government had sanctioned Rs 47 crore for its six drought-affected districts.
The ARKS has decided to stage demonstration all over the state from September 1.
The All Assam Students Union has also hit the streets in support of farmers' demands.
According to preliminary estimates made by the state government, the agriculture sector in Assam has already lost crops worth Rs 1200 crore so far.
Rice production has slumped from 39.15 lakh metric tonnes to less than 27.43 lakh metric tonnes.