Pak declares ‘war’ on rice fields along border; shelling may destroy crops worth Rs 125 crore #Hindustan360

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The sound of the tractor instantly invites the sounds of the gun from across the other side of the International Border (IB). The area is RS Pura, the “rice bowl” of India, in the Jammu area. View more at #Hindustan360.

Today, 40,000 acres of basmati stands unattended in Jammu and Kashmir as they are under heavy threat from Pakistani soldiers. Firing and shelling from Pakistani soldiers have caused rice farmers to flee, ensuring that crop cultivation of basmati rice on the Indian side of the International Border (IB) is next to impossible.

Locals claim here that this firing every October-November is an annual ritual. It is meant to attack the Indian farmer, hurt India’s basmati rice crop, and ensure that Pakistan’s rice crop flowers. As a result, farmers working on the fields have been made to vacate the area, ensuring that long spreads of mature paddy stands neglected.

A local farmer who asked not to be named says: “The paddy crop on the other side of the IB has been sowed earlier and they harvested a couple of weeks before us. The recent firing from across the border has been planned so as to disrupt and damage our crop. The early sowing gives them an edge,” says a local farmer. “If there is no one to harvest, the crop will die in 10-12 days,” he says.

India is especially important for the basmati rice market, as 65 percent of the produce comes from here. Ashok Malhotra, Director of Agriculture, Jammu and Kashmir, feels that the government must counter the Pakistani aggression by taking urgent steps to protect the rice farmer and to save the country’s prized possession.

“For some time now, we have been asking the government to provide protection to the farmers,” he says. “Also, there is no compensation/insurance for crops or for farmers in these vulnerable areas. Other state governments provide full compensation to farmers if the crops get destroyed, but this is not the case in Jammu and Kashmir.”

It is not just Jammu that is suffering. Around 800 farmer-families are being affected by the cross-border shelling. But Swaran Lal, Sarpanch, Suchetgarh, a village in Jammu, says that Pakistan is no just the problem. “We have been demanding incentives from the government for so long. If this continues, we will move to other places, never to return.”

“The BSF’s presence in the area do not allow us to use machines in the fields. As a result, manual harvest will take a much longer duration, as at least 20 percent of the crop will get destroyed,” he said.

View more at #Hindustan360.