Bhubaneswar– Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Tuesday requested Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh to send a central fact-finding team to Odisha to assess the ground realities in the areas where crops were damaged due to pest attack.

In a letter, Pradhan informed that massive pest infestation has hit nine districts in Odisha and crop nearly 1.8 lakh hectare across these districts have been ravaged by the pest attack.

Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan

As a result, large numbers of farmers are in distress with some of them have taken the extreme step of setting their crops on fire and even committing suicide, he said, adding he also sought to meet the Agriculture Minister to discuss the matter extensively.

Noting that agriculture including protection against pests and prevention of plant diseases is a state subject, Pradhan blamed the Naveen Patnaik government for the state of affairs.

“The situation has spiraled out of hand largely due to the inordinate delay on part of the state government in supply of subsidized pesticides to the farmers. The state government has done too little too late and by the time the pesticides were put to use, the pests had already attacked the crops and killed them resulting in the crisis in hand,” he alleged.

He said the problem of farmers in Odisha has further got compounded as the drought has hit 15 districts.

“In this context, I would like your urgent personal intervention to explore possible Central intervention and assistance to save the lives and livelihood of the landless agricultural labourers, sharecroppers and small, marginal and sub-marginal cultivators,” said Pradhan.

The Odisha government on Monday announced a package for farmers whose crops have been affected by pest attack.

Agriculture input subsidy will be provided to the small and marginal farmers who have sustained crop loss of 33 percent and above due to pest attack.

According to a report of Special Relief Commissioner, crops in nearly 1, 78,932 hectares of agricultural land have been affected by pest in nine districts and the farmers would be provided agriculture input subsidy in line with the drought assistance – Rs 6,800 per hectare of land in rainfed/non-irrigated areas and Rs 13,500 per hectare of land in areas under assured irrigation would be provided. (IANS)