Kerala witnesses harvesting revolution for want of farmhands

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Thrissur, Apr 10 (UNI) Kerala's farm sector is witnessing yet another revolution with legislators, scientists, faculty members and students of the Agricultural University led by its Vice-Chancellor and Catholic nuns engaging in harvesting of paddy crops which are decaying in unusual summer rains.

They volunteered the work due to shortage of agricultural workers, which is mostly controlled by organisations affiliated to the ruling CPI(M). CPI(M) has opposed the operation of harvesting machines.

Wielding sickles, a team of 300 students of the Kerala Agricultural University led by Vice-Chancellor K R Viswambharan harvested ten acres of paddy in the 'Kole' land (water-logged paddy field) at Nedupuzha in the district yesterday.

Scientists and faculty members of the university and its horticultural and agricultural engineering colleges also joined the five-hour harvesting under a scorching sun.

Legislator V S Sunil Kumar inaugurated the programme.

The harvesting would continue for the next two days and the reaped paddy would be released to the respective farmers after threshing, Mr Viswambharan said.

Students of the veterinary, dairy science, forestry and cooperation and banking colleges under the university would be joining the harvesting team tomorrow.

Mr Viswambharan said the university's voluntary programme was also aimed at spreading the message that every Malayalee should be prepared for farm work in the context of the state facing the threat of food shortage.

Presently, Kerala is depending Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh for its requirements of rice.

Meanwhile, a group of nuns of the Little Sisters of Christ Convent at Pallathuruthy in Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, harvested paddy crop in 2.5 acres owned by the convent.

According to government estimates, 20,000 hectares of paddy was destroyed and 10,000 hectares were damaged in the unseasonal rains that lashed the state during the last week of March. Kuttanad in Alappuzha district and the 'Kole' land in Thrissur district were the worst affected areas.

Crop loss had taken the lives of four farmers - three committed suicide while one collapsed and died in shock.

The CPI(M)-led LDF Government in the state has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 50,000 to the next of kin of the deceased farmers along with waiver of their farm loans and a compensation of Rs 10,000 per hecatare of crop-loss.

The state cabinet at its meeting yesterday had also decided to send an all-party delegation to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Ministers seeking adequate Central assistance to compensate the farmers.

UNI PMM GKT SR RK1635

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