UP farmers protest against nature’s fury

Mathura, April 6 (IANS) Hundreds of farmers have been protesting here in Uttar Pradesh against nature’s fury that has destroyed their crops, causing them financial ruin.

After a devastating hailstorm on Friday, farmers in the Vrindavan, Goverdhan, Barsana, Raya, Chata and Kosi areas have been on the war path.
On Saturday, they brought traffic between New Delhi and Agra to a virtual halt. On Sunday, hundreds were out on the streets demanding compensation and relief from the authorities.
Hundreds of farmers in Mathura district blocked traffic for hours on the Yamuna Expressway on Saturday to protest against what they said was the indifference of the district administration towards their plight.
A similar protest took place on the highway to Delhi.
Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Congress organised protest marches on Sunday.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union submitted memorandums to district officials on Saturday demanding early survey of the damage to the crops and payment of compensation to farmers.
The leaders highlighted how more than a dozen farmers had either died of shock or committed suicide as a result of extensive damage to their crops.
Farmers of the Vrindavan, Chata and Kosi areas said the hailstorm on Friday damaged whatever was left from earlier rounds of untimely rain and hail.
“We were trying to retrieve and bundle damaged crop of mustard and wheat. Suddenly came the hailstorm. As we ran for shelter, several people were hit by the hail,” said farmer Hari singh at Chaumuhan.
“We have not seen such big lumps of hail in our life. So many birds, including peacocks, were found dead as they were hit by the ice balls that came like cartridges from a machine gun,” he added.
Villager Satpal Yadav said the farmers were totally ruined. “They need immediate help but the state machinery continues its lethargic ways.”
District Magistrate Rajesh Kumar said senior officials were surveying the damage, and a comprehensive report will be sent to the state government at the earliest.
“The damage has been fairly extensive, up to 80 percent in a rectangular belt. In one village in Mahavan, 50 to 100 people were hit by hail,” Rajesh Kumar said.
Meanwhile, political activists and farmer leaders were upset that the BJP Lok Sabha member from Mathura, Hema Malini, was preparing to organise the Mathura Mahotsava on April 11-12.
Rashtriya Lok Dal legislator from Chata, Tej Pal Singh, said the parliamentarian should not organise such mega musical programmes at a time when farmers were dying.
Hema Malini on Sunday postponed the event in view of the farmers being adversely affected by the hail storms.
“Right now, the need is to solve farmers’ woes and wipe their tears,” Hema Malini told IANS.
The veteran Bollywood actor said she would spend a couple of days in Mathura and Vrindavan and extensively tour the rural hinterland, badly hit by the hail storms.
She said she has held discussions with central leaders to ensure financial support to the victims.