December 11, 2016
Thanjavur: The popular sobriquet ‘Granary of South India’, has now become a misnomer for the delta region as the total area of paddy cultivation in the delta districts has dwindled over the years due to uncertainty over the release of water from Mettur dam, unrewarding financial returns, shortage of agricultural workers and boom in land development.
Official sources claim that the total area of cultivation has reduced alarmingly over the years; the 6.28 lakh hectares under cultivation in 1984 gradually shrunk to 5.24 lakh hectares in 1998 and 4.83 lakh hectares in 2016.
Whenever the water from Mettur dam was released on the scheduled date of June 12 for irrigation, paddy cultivation was taken up in larger areas. But in 2016, paddy cultivation was taken up only in 4.83 lakh hectares in the delta districts of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam, as against 5.45 lakh hectares, the normal area of cultivation, due to the delay in water release, a senior official in agriculture department said.
With agriculture no longer being a profitable venture, marginal and medium farmers owning up to five acres are now selling their agricultural lands to land developers. This has resulted in a sudden boom in the real estate industry in the delta region, says R Sugumaran, Vice-President of Joint Movement of Farmers’ Associations.
“Marginal and medium farmers are selling their agricultural lands in Thanjavur, Orathanadu, Pattukkottai and Papanasam taluks. In Orathanadu taluk alone, about 750 acres of agricultural lands have now been sold and converted into house site plots this year,” Sugumaran said.
According to Arupathy Kalyanam, General Secretary of Federation of Farmers Associations of Cauvery Delta Districts, the migration of farm workers has hit the industry. “Considering the precarious income, younger generations are not interested in farming work. About 60 per cent of young and potential workers have already migrated to Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, where they work in brick-kilns and construction industries. Women have migrated to places like Karur and Tiruppur to take employment in spinning mills and knitting industries, where they get employment throughout the year,” Kalyanam said.