Gangtok, April 6:
Farmers across the country have suffered losses due to the lockdown, even though it is being enforced to contain the risk of spread and infection. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), which is the apex body in coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture in the entire nation, under the control of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare on 5 April announced that the ICAR would be assessing the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on agriculture, and allied sectors would take appropriate measures in order to minimize the effect on the country’s food security.
Across the nation, harvest of crops like mustard, gram, wheat among others, have been reported to be have started. In the Kharif season, which is typically from July – October, during the south-west monsoon, many farmers have incurred losses in their crops due to excessive rainfall and most farmers were waiting for the Rabi season which is from October-March (winter season) to compensate for their earlier losses. But, due to the implementation of the lockdown, they are facing newer problems.
Though, in Sikkim, the State Government has allowed the sale of essential commodities (vegetables mainly), most of the vendors in Lal Bazaar, Gangtok, have to open their shops with a regulated timing. This has led to the exploitation of small farmers by local traders who buy their produce at lower rates.
The Food Security & Agriculture Development Department of Sikkim has come to aid the farmers. They have decided to set up a helpline for them to assist and give support during the 21 day lockdown. Two senior officials will be manning the helpline from 8 A.M to 6 P.M daily and will be extending their support in matters like:
- Aid and assistance in production and marketing for farmers.
- Help in situations of pest infestation.
- Help in incurring losses relating to farming.
- Aid in other agricultural activities like obtaining particular seeds.
- Visits to farms to support agricultural activities.
The implantation of this helpline was decided during a meeting between the concerned department and district-level officials on 3 April. The meeting’s agenda was to discuss issues related to farmers’ welfare during the lockdown. It was also to direct district officials to be in search of possibilities to utilize the lockdown period. During the meeting, the district officials highlighted numerous field-level activities undertaken by them to mitigate the current situation of the farmers across the state. Principal Secretary of Agriculture assessed the situation and what the department has been doing in aiding these farmers. The districts informed that they have been providing the aggregation and market linkages including the issuing of passes in order for farm produce to be sold through Farmers Producers Organization (FPO), Sikkim State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited (SIMFED) and NGOs without causing hassle. Due to the support of the department, nearly all FPOs are engaged in aggregation and marketing of their farm produce, while also making the best use of the transport vehicles given to them by the government.
In view of extending all possible support to the farmers during the lockdown period, the department has set up Farmers’ Helpline Numbers as follows: North District–
- B.D. Rai, Additional Director, Agriculture, Mobile no– 9733275066
- Dup Tshering Kazi, Deputy Director, Horticulture, Mobile no- 9434174828
- Passang Tamang, Deputy Director, Agriculture, Mobile no- 7602848818
- Rachana Gurung, Deputy Director, Horticulture, Mobile no- 9735761613
- Tshering Norboo Bhutia, Deputy Director, Agriculture, Mobile No- 9474059458
- Karma Sherpa, Deputy Director, Horticulture, Mobile No- 8145574864
- Dr. Pratap Subba, Deputy Director, Agriculture, Mobile No- 9733255160
- Dikendra Bhujel, Deputy Director, Horticulture, Mobile No- 7866829200, 9002802995