- Farmers left to fight the locust on their own?
Federal Food Security Minister Fakhar Imam says nearly half the country is already under locust attack. Last week the NDMA informed that 61 districts in the four provinces are bearing the brunt of the invasion. The government is expected to provide security of life and property to its citizens. The locust did not attack in the midst of the night like a deceitful enemy. The swarms entered Pakistan last year in broad daylight and after initial attacks settled down in Balochistan and in areas along the Pak-India border where they were allowed to proliferate. The provincial governments claim that they do not possess sufficient stocks of chemicals or aerial platforms to spray the affected areas, though the complaint is unjustified after the mega funds made available to the provinces year after year after the last NFC Award. Had the money been properly utilized the provincial governments would have been in a better position to deal with threats of the sort to their agriculture.
The locust attack is fast turning into a national calamity faced by the entire country that could disrupt the federal government’s plans for food autarchy. It thus becomes a federal issue. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that the number of locusts could grow 20-fold in the coming rainy season in South Asia unless extra measures to counter the swarms are put in place. Last week the NDMA chairman claimed Pakistan had collected enough pesticides and placed orders for more. Further it had arranged nine airplanes for aerial spray. What explains the havoc done by the locust in half the country in the presence of all these arrangements? Negligence or delay in preparations, or both?
When people are forced to fight the locust through attempts like beating drums or raising smoke, it shows they have concluded that the state has abandoned them. It appears that the NDMA delayed too long to acquire the material for lack of funds, indicating that fighting the locust threat was not among the PTI government’s priorities. That most of the chemicals came through donations also strengthens the perception. Isn’t the ruling elite gradually veering away from the Quaid-e-Azam’s goal of a welfare state?