The Madras High Court on Friday directed the State government to submit a status report by Monday on the steps taken to assess the damages caused to farmers due to uprooting of hundreds of coconut trees due to Cyclone Gaja and the consequent loss caused to coconut based industries in Thanjavur district.
A Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and P. Rajamanickam directed Additional Government Pleader E. Manohar to ensure that the report was filed at the earliest. They also ordered notice to the Coconut Development Board, functioning under the Union Ministry of Agriculture, to find out steps taken by it.
The orders were passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by R. Kalaiselvan, a former vice-chairman of the Board. The petitioner pointed out that the cyclone had devastated the delta districts of Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Pudukottai by uprooting around 9,000 electric poles, 900 transformers and 200 electric sub stations.
Wind speed was so high that hundreds of coconut trees in the groves also got uprooted causing huge loss to the farmers. Pointing out that coconut trees takes seven years to start yielding income, the petitioner said, that a farmer would have to lose around ₹ 35 lakh for every hectare of the coconut grove that had been destroyed in the cyclone.
The loss was apart from the capital expenditure of a minimum of ₹ 6 lakh that had to be incurred towards growing the trees for seven years. Further, factories dealing with coconut oil, dessicated coconut powder, coconut shell charcoal, coconut coir, and coconut pith in the district would have to suffer for the next seven years.
Despite the loss being so huge, the State government had announced a very low compensation of around ₹ 2.64 lakh per hectate, the petitioner claimed and sought for a direction to assess the damages properly and pay adequate compensation proportionate to the loss suffered by individual farmers in the district.