Fully prepared to deal with any locust attack: Haryana govt

Chandigarh, Jun 28 (PTI) The Haryana government is fully prepared to deal with any locust attack, state Agriculture Minister J P Dalal said on Sunday, as he credited officials for a timely response to tackle an infestation of the short-horned grasshoppers in Rewari district.

He also said the Rewari district administration will conduct a survey to assess the damage caused to crops by locusts.

The locust swarms have been coming in waves into Rajasthan from Pakistan over the last one and a half months and devouring crops along their path as they cross from one state to another.

'We have sufficient stocks of insecticides, pesticides, machinery to deal with locust attacks. Our officials swing into action as soon as these insects settle down on vegetation, trees, soil, etc,' Dalal said.

He said the administration managed to eliminate 35 per cent of a swarm of locusts which had entered Rewari around 5 pm on Friday and settled in the villages around Jatusana at night.

'We were apprehending that they will move towards Rohtak and Sonipat, but due to a change in the wind direction they moved towards Gurgaon, Delhi and then towards Uttar Pradesh,' he said.

Dalal, who visited fields in Bohatwas Bhondu and Parkhotampur villages in Rewari's Jatusana on Saturday, said the farmers have been assured that the administration is assessing the damage caused to their crops due to the locust attack.

The district administration has been directed to send to the chief minister a report with a preliminary estimate of the damage.

A special 'girdwari' (revenue survey) will be ordered and the affected farmers will be suitably compensated by the government, Dalal said.

The minister refuted the Congress' allegation that the state government had completely failed to prevent a locust attack despite being aware of the possibility for a long time.

It was because of the preparations made by the government much in advance that 35 per cent of the locust swarm was eliminated during a night-long operation carried out by the Rewari district administration, Dalal said.

He added that even experts from the central government who visited Rewari to take stock of the situation had appreciated the timely measures taken by the district administration.

A huge swarm of locusts reached Rewari on Friday with parts of it settling in various villages of Jatusana and Khol blocks of the district overnight. From Rewari, the locusts entered Gurgaon, neighbouring Delhi, on Saturday.

In many villages where locusts were spotted, the farmers beat 'thalis' (plates) and other utensils, while some burst firecrackers to drive away the insects. The local administration deployed tractor-mounted spray facilities for the purpose.

A month ago, too, Haryana had issued a high alert after locust swarms attacked crops in neighbouring Rajasthan and a few other states. However, luckily, the insects had moved away from the state.

Popularly known as 'tiddi dal', locusts have highly migratory habits and voracious feeding behaviour. They keep flying during day time and settle down only after dark in the evening.

This insect can eat more than its body weight. A one square kilometer of locust swarm containing around 40 million locusts can in a day eat as much food as 35,000 people.

In May, India battled a devastating desert locust outbreak. The crop-destroying swarms first attacked Rajasthan and then spread to Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

According to an advisory issued by the Centre, there can be more locust attacks in the near future. PTI SUN VSD DIV DIV