After drones and drugs, locusts from Pakistan raise concerns in Punjab

Kanchan Vasdev, Raakhi Jagga
After drones and drugs, locusts from Pakistan raise concerns in Punjab

The photo of a locust at his farm tweeted by Punjab State Farmers Commission chairperson Ajayvir Jakhar on Friday. (Express Photo)

After drones and drugs, now it is locusts from Pakistan which have become a cause of worry for the farmers and the government of Punjab. Worries mounted Friday after locusts, found in Rajasthan a few days ago, were seen in Abohar villages. The villages border Ganganagar in Rajasthan.

Reports of locust sighting also trickled in from villages in Muktsar.

Punjab, which blames Afghanistan and Pakistan for narcotics making way into India, is now blaming both the countries for locusts reaching Rajasthan.

Agriculture Secretary, Punjab, Kahan Singh Pannu said, “Had Pakistan sprayed enough pesticides in their side of the desert bordering Rajasthan, we would not have suffered this menace. But they just controlled the locust attack in Bhawalpur and Western Punjab and left the desert area unchecked. That is why the locusts entered India from Rajasthan side.”

The spotting of locusts in Shergarh village of Punjab comes a few days after the state government said that there was no cause of concern as Rajasthan was controlling the pest effectively.

The concern over locusts was raised by the chairperson of Punjab State Farmers Commission, Ajayvir Jakhar, Friday. Posting a picture of a locust, he tweeted: “While I am at #wef20 in Davos... back home from the farm my son informs me; Locusts have arrived in the village. A nightmare I hope not. Had earlier warned the agriculture dept & now updating continuously. Nothing more I can do now but pray.”

Jakhar told the Indian Express that some locusts were seen at his farm at Panjkosi village in Abohar. They, he said, were not yet in the form of a swarm. He said a team from Agriculture Department had already reached the village.

Sources in the department said the government has ordered Markfed to procure 10,000 litres of pesticides in case of any eventuality and has sounded out a private firm to maintain a stock of at least 40,000 litres.

Locusts belong to the family of grasshoppers and multiply fast as they migrate long distances in swarms. The swarms devour leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and growing points, and also destroy plants by their sheer weight as they descend on them in massive numbers.

According to the locust division of the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage, Faridabad, a small swarm of the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), eats on average “as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2500 people”

“We have sent a team of agriculture department to the villages. We will wait for these locusts to settle down at night and then start spraying the pesticide. During the day, these insects take flight and cannot be killed with sprays,” said a government functionary.

Pannu said there was no cause of concern. “The government is alert. I sent a team of the department to Shergarh and Lalgarh villages. They have reached there. I have already been briefed. They tell me that a few insects have been spotted here and there. Those too are under the impact of pesticide sprayed by Rajasthan and are not very active. There is no cause of concern.”

Meanwhile, several farmer in Muktsar got panicked when saw locusts moving in their wheat fields. Locusts were seen in villages Aspal, Raniwala, Midha, Karampatti, Virkkhera and Bhang Jari.

Baljinder Singh Brar, chief agriculture officer, Muktsar, said, “Small swarms of locusts were seen in some villages. They had come from Rajasthan and are already under the influence of pesticides sprayed there. As of now, there is no damage in Punjab and we are on a constant vigil. We have asked farmers to inform us whenever they see locust in the villages”.

Director, Agriculture, Swatantar Kumar, while talking to The Indian Express said, “Four districts of Punjab — Muktsar, Faridkot, Ferozepur and Fazilka — have been put on alert as they border Sriganganagar area of Rajasthan. We have taken all precautions."

He added, “Fifteen teams in Fazilka, Ferozepur, Faridkot and Muktsar are in contact with each other. A surveillance centre has also been set up and the farmer friends are in liaison with our officials in districts. Boom sprayers are ready with the department."