Home arrow Archives arrow Open Forum arrow Open Forum 2012 arrow In Grip of Drought: WHERE IS PROMISED TWO MEALS?, By Dhurjati Mukherjee,4 August, 2012
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
In Grip of Drought: WHERE IS PROMISED TWO MEALS?, By Dhurjati Mukherjee,4 August, 2012 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 4 August 2012  

In Grip of Drought


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


It’s finally official. India is facing drought. Already, the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) has prepared a contingency plan for 320 districts which had scanty rainfall. According to Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat, 24 meteorological sub-divisions are affected where rainfall is deficient by 20-60 per cent. Though the situation is not as grave as 2009, a clear picture would emerge early or mid September, he added.


Significantly, overall the country has witnessed an over 20 per cent deficiency till last month and this month and September, around 85 per cent rainfall is expected which could make-up the shortfall of earlier months. Recall, in June-September 2009, overall rainfall fell short by 23 per cent of the normal, leading to a situation wherein over 350 districts were declared drought hit.


Adding to farmers’ woes, deficient monsoon has resulted in kharif sowing lagging behind, almost 56 lakh hectares less than normal. Plainly, 10 per cent less for the entire season. While paddy sowing is marginally down by about 9 lakh hectares, the worst affected are coarse cereals (23 per cent or 22 hectares) and pulses (18 per cent or 17 hectares).


Undeniably, the situation in Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra have reached the no recovery stage, the situation in Gujarat and Rajasthan, Western part in particular, is equally worrying. To provide relief, the Karnataka Government has waived farmers’ loans of Rs 3500 crores taken from cooperative banks to service their seed and fertilizer requirement. It has sought Central assistance of Rs 2000 crores from the Prime Minister recently.


According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Central Maharashtra accumulated a deficit of 37 per cent in June-July with Marthwada’s shortfall being 28 per cent and Vidarbha’s 5-6 per cent. Among various programmes underway are those to revive farm ponds, canals near dams, watershed management and credit schemes. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is all for promoting crops with low water consumption.


Punjab and Haryana are also reeling under drought due to scanty rainfall with the latter facing a deficit of around 70 per cent. But irrigation facilities in these agricultural power-houses have so far saved the crop, though this situation might not continue long. The Punjab Government has demanded an interim relief package of Rs 800 crores for farmers who are sustaining their crop by burning diesel.


Among the various measures being taken to tackle drought, the Government has announced a 50 per cent diesel subsidy scheme for farmers to help them save their kharif crop through irrigation.


The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) not only approved enhancing subsidy on seeds of alternate crops under contingency plans but also cleared a Rs 1440 crores relief package towards watershed development-related efforts in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan where around 56 lakh hectares of farmland is estimated to be uncultivated.


This is not all. The Government is trying to provide drought-hit States where crop losses are sure with additional electricity to enable them to draw water from tubewells. Punjab and Haryana have been sanctioned 300 MW of power and UP 275 MW. Consequently, the availability of food stocks and irrigation facilities, which expanded from 33 to 55 per cent of total acreage, might counter some of the drought effects.


Additionally, like last year wherein tubewells facilitated rabi production in areas with less winter rain, this time too the rabi crop which was one-third the size of kharif crop is now almost equal. Recall, even during 2009 which witnessed one of the worst monsoon failures in recent years, overall agricultural production rose by 0.9 per cent.


Furthermore, the Government is hoping that with large food stocks of 86 million tonnes, the need to import foodgrains might not arise. Unlike, the 60s and 70s when India had great difficulty in importing food. But today being a $ two trillion economy importing, if at all necessary, would be no problem. Even if one needed to import 10 million tonnes of wheat, the $ 3 billion cost is easily affordable.


Be that as it may, the possibility of food inflation looms large, which would greatly affect the poor and economically weaker sections of society. Coupled with crops failure in rural and backward areas the masses would come under great financial strain.


Against the backdrop, that a common man spends nearly 54 per cent of his total outlay on food requirements. In comparison, Americans spend a mere 9.3 per cent of their income on food, Italians 25.7 per cent, Japanese 19.1 per cent, French 16.3 per cent and in Britain 11.5 per cent.      


In sum, the clamour for Right to Food seems justified, specially, when crop failures result in innumerable suicides every year due to non payment of loans etc. Towards that end, our leaders need to draft a proper Food Security Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee.


The present Bill centralises all powers in the hands of the Central Government thus undermining positive measures for food security taken by some State Governments. In 21 century India which aspires for super power status, the people below the poverty line (BPL) should be assured two square meals a day. ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

New Delhi, 4 August 2012  


< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT