When we sit down for a meal, we instinctively thank the Almighty. But how many of us also thank the farmer who braves numerous odds to put the food on our table? Notwithstanding vagaries of the weather and high input costs, the Indian farmer toils away for months, to eke out a living.
He faces numerous challenges, but his worst nightmare is an attack by the ‘desert locust’. A swarm spread over 1 sq. km, can comprise of 10 million pests, capable of consuming food meant for 35,000 people, in just one day. At present, parts of northern India are struggling to combat the menace, the worst in many decades, led by cities like Jhansi.
Jhansi prepares for the onslaught
The locusts (tiddi in Hindi) travel in the direction of the wind and can cover up to 150 km daily. The swarm entered Rajasthan through Pakistan on 11-12 April. Anticipating trouble, the UP state government alerted all districts. The Jhansi administration led by the DM swung into action immediately. They quickly established nodal points at various levels, a chain of command and reliable channels of communication. A co-ordination mechanism within and with neighboring districts was created, through WhatsApp groups.
An Integrated Control Room (0510 2371100) was set up for reporting and monitoring purposes. People were encouraged to report on sighting of the swarm. Village Nigrani Samitis were activated. Farmers were educated about the likely attack and counter measures. Desert Locusts are highly allergic to loud sounds. During the day, the focus was on preventing the swarms from destroying the crops, by creating lots of noise using Thaali- Chammach, beating drums and tin cans, using loud speakers or music systems like DJ.
They make a landfall (rest) in the night which is the only opportunity to eliminate them by spraying pesticides. The locusts prefer areas which have vegetation, are cooler and have good moisture content in air such as riverside, lakeside, forested areas, orchards, etc. The administration identified the probable locations. Pesticides were procured in sufficient quantities immediately.
An effective counter-attack
Jhansi district has already dealt with 3 waves of locust attacks on May 22, 24 and 27. The well-prepared administration, had kept fire brigade vehicles loaded with pesticide, ready. With everyone’s cooperation, over half of the swarm was eliminated.
Jhansi demonstrated once again that a stitch in time saves nine. Having anticipated the problem they made meticulous preparations, to put men, material and systems in place. They also ensured effective communication (press conferences, use of social media etc.) and coordination. It was hard work and an eye for detail which made all the difference.