No rain, no gain the farmers of tuticorin district in tamil nadu face crop FAILURE crisis

The nation we reside in is a place where our feeders undergo several hardships to feed their own families. Such is a case in Melmanthai, a small village situated in the Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu.

V Ramalingham, a lean middle aged man who was working in a 1.5 acre field, surprised me by saying that he is no daily wage labourer, but he owns that land. He, along with his wife V Sakkamma, starts working on that field from 7 AM and continue their tough grind in scorching heat until around 4 in the afternoon.

Green chilly cultivation is the primary source of bread for small scale farmers like Ramalingham. Green chillies are occasionally accompanied by Ulandhu, a typical South Indian spice often used in local cuisine. Sakkamma said, “We grow chillies because they are convinient and not because the soil is best suited for them.” By convenient Sakkama meant that a single plant of green chilly sprouts numerous chilly peppers, which is profitable to the farmers.

When these chillies burst in to life, they are traded off to the buyers from various neighbouring cities like Thoothukudi, Kovilpatti, Paramakudi, etc. However, safeguarding the continuity of these chillies is quite a task.

A green chilly plant ; Ulandhu peppers

Life is much harder for farmers who reside in the coastal regions, as the primary source of cultivation itself is flawed. The subject in focus here is water, or saline water to be precise. The excessive salt content makes the available water ineffectual for cultivation of any kind of crops.

Therefore, the crops bank almost entirely on atmospheric perspiration for their well being. Here comes another ordeal. The rain gods have historically refused to shower their blessings on Melmanthai. This straightaway points to scarce levels of ground water, which makes erection of irrigation systems futile. All this, plus lack of any government pumps, do their best to amplify the agony of the farmers.

The outcome of these events end up ruining the crops, leaving these landowners in employment and monetary crisis. This forces them to hunt for alternative sources of employment. This situation is rather discouraging because owning a land is considered an asset, but for these farmers it quite often fails to make them financially sound.

Being a coastal region, salt pans sound like the obvious alternative, but sadly employment there is again seasonal. Government’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) has come to the rescue of many idle farmers, ensuring them 100 days of assured employment in an year. But as it turns out, the payment procedure there isn't all that smooth either. Also, NREGA policies allow employment to just one person per family.

Despite all the farming woes, these farmers ensure that they provide good education to their children. Ramalingham’s two teenaged daughters attend the local government school, while his 23-year-old son is pursuing engineering in Vembar Polytechnic College. A majority of the Melmanthai farmers have not relied on loans to educate their children. They have been digging into their savings to do so.

B. Kuruswami, a farmer in his late 60’s, in a rather paradoxical statement said, “The floods last year were a boon for us. The excessive water was extremely beneficial for the crops. The harvest was superb.” The general condition of the Memanthai farmers is so lamentable that they actually rejoiced over a calamity.

Scarce rainfall and lack of compensation from the government have anguished the small scale farmers of the Tuticorin district. Whether the future unfolds any fortunes for them is yet to be seen.

Created By
Tushaar Singh Gill
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