Chennai: An estimated 10 lakh coconut trees have died across Tamil Nadu’s Salem district, farmers have said, due to the state’s worst drought in 140 years. The drought has not only turned landlords into paupers, but it has also led to the migration of many farmers to cities to work as daily wage labourers. While authorities blame it on poor monsoon and old age of trees, farmers said they are largely left to fend for themselves.
At Kalichettiyur, Senthil Kumar’s family had switched from paddy farming to coconuts in the nineties due to shortage of water. Cononut saplings take five years to yield. However, due to the drought, he has lost around 700 coconut trees. “I’d quit agriculture. For 20 years, the trees supported us. What will I do with no rain and no crop? The government also hardly helps,” Mr Kumar rues.
Without any other source of income, many are abandoning this crop. The water table in the region has dipped to 1,500 foot. Despite sinking seven borewells, Nadesa Udayar found no water and lost all 300 tress across his seven-acre farmland. He is Rs. 12 lakh in debt.
“Many farmers have become ministers but they don’t take care of us. They treat us only as servants,” he said. On Wednesday, Chief Minister Palaniswami said that the government is taking every measure to help coconut farmers.
“We are giving them compensation,” he further said. Farmers want at least Rs. 10,000 as compensation for each tree lost. “When we are required to cut our trees to make way for overhead power cables, we are paid Rs. 25,000 for each tree,” said farmer P Jayakumar.
“If the government plans to give us just a few hundred rupees for each tree, they better not give us any,” he added.