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Watermelon farmers badly hit by lockdown, natural calamities

By ANN Service

SUALKUCHI, May 2 - The novel coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown and indefinite ban on entry and exit of vegetables carriers to prevent the spread of the disease have led to a collective loss of lakhs of rupees for watermelon growers of Silguri in Kamrup district, 42 km from Guwahati.

The recent storms that lashed the region also badly damaged their crops, leading to more financial problems for the farmers.

Silguri is famous for the Dhareswar Temple built during the reign of Ahom king Siva Singha at the foothills of Hatimura Hill, which was named after the elephant on the back of whom Bhagadatta the Asur king rode to fight against Pandavas in the Kurukshetra battle. The elephant stopped its movement there.

Silguri is inhabited by poor farmers and people from the Hira community. The farmers along with a number of educated youths have taken up commercial cultivation of watermelon as a livelihood.

Watermelon is a high-yielding crop and within just 70 days, farmers can harvest a huge quantity of crops. This time, the people of the village cultivated watermelon in more than 300 bighas of land. But the recent storm damaged around 50 per cent of the watermelon crops.

Moreover, due to the ongoing lockdown, the farmers have failed to transport their produce to the markets situated at Jail Road in Guwahati and other places.

It may be mentioned here that the Islamic month of Ramzan has excellent potential of high sale of watermelon. But the farmer could not avail this chance.

Gopal Das, a farmer from Satghariya Chupa, said he cultivated watermelon in five bighas investing Rs 70,000 with the aim of harvesting 100 quintals. He said he would have earned around Rs 2 lakh by selling his crops. But the storm damaged half of his produce.

Uttam Kalita and Dhan Kalita of Mahakaltol cultivated watermelon in seven bighas. But most of the crop was damaged by the storm. They said they were waiting for the government decision on withdrawal of the ban on transportation of vegetables and other crops.

Many farmers like Mukul Medhi, Pulak Thakuriya, Sailen Kalita, Ashwini Medhi, Sanjib Kalita and others said that they have huge outstanding dues, and could only survive if they are able to sell the produce in the market.

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