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Indian archbishop seeks succor for paddy farmers

Unseasonal rains during summer have destroyed rice crops ready to be harvested in Kerala state

Indian archbishop seeks succor for paddy farmers

A man walks in floodwater in the Eloor area of Ernakulam district in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Aug. 9, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 13, 2022 08:41 AM GMT

Updated: April 13, 2022 10:07 AM GMT

A Catholic archbishop has appealed to the communist-led provincial government in southern India's Kerala state to provide immediate aid to paddy farmers who lost their crops to unseasonal rains.

“It is heartbreaking to see the waterlogged paddy fields and hear the cries for help from the farmers,” said Archbishop Joseph Perumthottam of Changanacherry after visiting paddy farmers in Kuttanad on April 12.

He said that unless the government took immediate steps to help them, it will not be possible for them to survive. “Mere assurances would not help them at this juncture,” he added.

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Kuttanad, known as the rice bowl of Kerala, has witnessed torrential rains accompanied by heavy winds that flattened matured paddy fields during the past 10 days.

“Our initial estimate is that more than 70 percent of the 26,000 hectares under paddy cultivation were destroyed by the rain and wind,” said Father Thomas Kulathumkal, secretary of the Changanacherry Social Service Society.

“Our teams including the archbishop are out in the field to console the farmers who lost their paddy crops and also to take stock of the losses,” Father Kulathumkal told UCA News on April 13.

Meanwhile, opposition Congress leader K. Sudhakaran blamed the suicide on the state government’s apathy towards farmers’ conditions

Teams from the archdiocese were also distributing food packets in the worst-affected areas where families lost everything, he said.

Father Kulathumkal regretted the reported suicide of middle-aged farmer Rajeev, who lost his paddy crop, and appealed to farmers not to lose hope and take such extreme steps.

Meanwhile, opposition Congress leader K. Sudhakaran blamed the suicide on the state government’s apathy towards farmers’ conditions.

He said the rains in summer had “destroyed nine acres of paddy but the compensation he [Rajeev] received was a mere 2,500 rupees [US$33],” which was a meager sum.

The Congress leader further warned that "a majority of the paddy farmers in Kuttanad are on the verge of suicide.”

He urged the government to procure the damaged paddy and to help them with adequate compensation.

Father Kulathumkal said the archdiocese was doing its best to extend all help to the affected farmers despite many constraints. The 2018 floods followed by the Covid pandemic had ravaged Kuttanad and also put a strain on relief efforts.

“We are still trying our best to mobilize resources to support the worst affected,” he said.

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