The Government has stepped into the fight against the menace of locust as it has become a great threat for farmers in several states before the sowing of kharif crops gathers pace.

Amid a wave of locust swarms sweeping across western and northwestern India, the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (DAC&FW) has stepped up locust control operations in the affected states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, said Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare on Wednesday in a statement.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, around 200 Locust Circle Offices (LCO) are conducting survey and control operations in close coordination with the district administration and agriculture field machinery of the affected states. Locust control operations are in full swing in coordination with the state agriculture departments and local administration.

In Rajasthan, 21 districts, in Madhya Pradesh 18 districts, in Punjab one district and in Gujarat 2 districts have undertaken Locust control till now. For effective control of locusts beyond scheduled desert areas, temporary control camps have been established in Ajmer, Chittorgarh and Dausa in Rajasthan; Mandsaur, Ujjain and Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh.

As on May 26, control operations against locusts have been done in 47,308 hectares of area in total 303 places in Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh by LCOs in coordination with the District Administration and State Agriculture Department, said the statement.

As per the agriculture ministry, 89 fire brigades for pesticide spray; 120 survey vehicles; 47 control vehicles with spray equipment and 810 tractor mounted sprayers have been deployed for effective locust control.

“As of today, there are active swarms of immature locust in Barmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner, Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Sikar, Jaipur districts in Rajasthan and Satna, Gwalior, Seedhi, Rajgarh, Baitul, Devas, Agar Malwa districts of Madhya Pradesh,” said the agriculture ministry.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is closely monitoring the situation and held three meetings with state agriculture ministers and representatives of pesticides companies, officials said. The government is also inviting tenders for drones for aerial spraying of insecticides.

The government has placed an order for buying 60 spraying machines from UK-based company Micron and two firms have been finalised for supply of drones for aerial spraying of insecticides for effective control over tall trees and inaccessible areas.

The pest, which threatens vegetable and pulse crops, have not impacted rabi (winter) produce in India but government efforts are on to eliminate the insects before monsoon in order to save kharif crops, officials from the Locust Warning Organisation (LWO) were quoted as saying by NDTV.

After destroying crops in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, a large swarm of locusts has now reached Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi district, putting the district administration on alert.

The Yogi Adityanath government has asked all District Magistrates to remain prepared for the movement of the swarm of locusts in their areas.

The UP government has set up a Disaster Relief Team, headed by the Deputy Director, Agriculture Directorate, to deal with locust attacks in various parts of the state. The team will survey various districts where locust presence has been found and will take remedial measures for the same.

Meanwhile, in matter of major concern, a swarm of desert locusts have entered Maharashtra a well.

Officials in Maharashtra said swarms that had entered Katol and Parseoni in Nagpur district over the last four days might now move towards Ramtek city.

The swarms, stretching up to 17 km, had first entered farms in Katol and Wardha’s Ashti taluka on Saturday and Sunday, damaging the orange crop and vegetable plantations. The locusts then moved towards Parseoni tehsil on Monday night.

Punjab too has been put on high alert for the infestation and control rooms have been set up in each district and farmers have been asked to report any activity of locusts, Punjab Director Agriculture Sawtantar Kumar Airi said.

The Odisha government has also sounded warning and advised farmers to take preventive measures to save crops from the attack of locusts.

Farmers residing in bordering areas of the state have been asked to remain alert and take immediate preventive steps.

A locust swarm had entered India from Pakistan on its western borders at the start of the year.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had in February issued a warning about twin invasion of desert locusts coming to India starting in May, but an official said that the country is prepared to meet the challenge.

According to the FAO, the world is facing one of the worst infestations of locusts in decades and that could put millions of people, especially in Africa, at risk of starvation.

The FAO and UN had made an appeal for $70 million in funds to help fight the locust menace.