By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, November 5, 2017: Odisha government on Sunday announced to provide assistance to farmers who have sustained crop losses due to pest attack under the provisions of relief code, according to the development commissioner R Balakrishnan.

Balakrishnan made the announcement after a meeting via video conferencing with Collectors, District Agriculture Officers (DAO) and Agriculture Officers of the districts in which paddy crop has been affected due to ‘brown planthoppers’ (BPH) (locally known as chakada poka) attack.

“We have already given instructions for a farmer-wise assessment. They should not have any doubt about it. Pest attack is covered under the relief code. Assistance will be provided to eligible farmers under relief code,” Balakrishna informed after the conference.

Special Relief Commissioner, Bishnupada Sethi to reporters after the meeting, “We will provide assistance for pest attack as is provided by us in the event of natural calamities like floods, cyclones etc. In the event of pest attack we will provide similar assistance. Pest occurs in an area and more than one person is affected. Assistance is provided on individual basis. Whosoever has been affected will be provided with compensation,” said

Crops in as many as 1, 78,932 hectares have been affected due to pest attack in nine districts of Odisha, according to a report the Special Relief Commissioner’s (SRC) office.

The report says standing crops have been affected in 8,211 villages under 1620 gram panchayats in 92 blocks and 19 urban local bodies by pest attack in Bargarh, Nuapada, Bhadrak, Bolangir, Kalahandi, Sonepur, Sambalpur, Koraput and Ganjam districts.

Among the districts, Bargarh is the worst affected with 43,037 hectares affected by pests and the second being Sambalpur with 36,057 hectares.

While 20 blocks in Ganjam district are the worst affected, about 33 to 50 percent crop loss has been reported in nearly 1, 12,000 hectares of land.

The report further says that 14 blocks each in Balangir and Koraput, 12 in Kalahandi, 11 in Bargarh, 9 in Sambalpur,6 in Subarnapur and one in Bhadrak districts have been affected by pests this year.

After a joint survey-cum-assessment by departments of Agriculture and Revenue, affected farmers will be provided with assistance.

Each district will have a nodal officer in addition to a team that will counsel farmers not to torch their crops apart from creating awareness on proper use of pesticides to curb pest menace.

“Awareness will be created among farmers that by setting fire you are not stopping the pest as it will fly and go. They will be clarified scientifically. Setting fire will rather cause damage to good organisms thus affecting the next cycle. Moreover, he is not gaining anything out of it. More importantly, this pest attack is covered the relief code. So he needn’t really set fire to prove that he is affected. By setting fire he is not benefiting rather losing,” Balakrishna clarified.

“The compensation for affected farmers in non-irrigated areas (rain fed areas) is Rs 6,800 per hectare and Rs 13,000 per hectare. We will provide compensation to all farmers who would feature in the report,” he added.

“Since winter has set in, the menace of the pest is on the decline and it will decline further. We have asked self help groups and farmer clubs in the area to provide counselling to farmers who are in despair,” said Agriculture Department Principal Secretary Sourav Garg.