Fear of drought haunts Bihar again

The spectre of drought is looming large over Bihar, something that state officials have acknowledged.

Last Updated: Jul 03, 2012, 12:22 PM IST

Patna: The spectre of drought is looming large over Bihar, something that state officials have acknowledged.

"If the monsoon fails the state in the first two weeks of July, the situation may be near drought," an official here said.

Monsoon normally hits the state between June 12 and June 14. But this year, it was delayed by over a week. Soon after the rains began, they have been scanty. The state has received 89 mm of rainfall against the normal expected rainfall of 159 mm. Last year, it recorded 152 mm rainfall in the same period.

"Till date, the state has witnessed a rainfall deficit of 44 percent," the state meteorological director DC Gupta said. He added that the monsoon had weakened over Bihar because no trough line is passing over the state.

He said the monsoon would revive in the next 48 hours following the development of cyclonic circulation over the Bay of Bengal.

After a record paddy crop last year, scanty monsoon rains have disappointed hundreds of thousands of farmers in Bihar.

Dry cracked land, dried water bodies, no water in the canals and a rainfall deficit of 44 percent - all these have turned farmers helpless. "The situation is grim. We badly need heavy monsoon rains but the clouds are missing. There is no water for paddy sowing," said Dharmesh Singh, a middle-aged farmer of Naubatpur near Patna.

Another farmer, Mukul Prasad of a village under Phulwari Sharif block near Patna, said, "I am still waiting for heavy monsoon rains because it is the only answer to our plight."

Singh and Prasad are two among an estimated 70 million people, two-thirds of Bihar`s population of 105 million, who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

The agriculture department has earmarked 38 lakh hectares for paddy, 2.7 lakh hectares for maize and 1.5 lakh hectares for oilseeds.

Last year, Bihar recorded a bumper paddy crop as its output was 114 lakh tonnes, thanks to a normal monsoon. But the state produced just about 46 lakh tonnes in 2010 and 57.7 lakh tonnes in 2009 of paddy due to insufficient rains.

For most of the state`s population, a good monsoon is a life-line. Not only that, nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activity in the state is dependent on the rains.

In view of scanty rains, state Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh said that the government is fully prepared with a contingency plan if there is a drought-like situation.

Singh said that the government had already released Rs 200 crore from the contingency fund to be disbursed among farmers as diesel subsidy. The government has approved Rs 619.75 crore for providing diesel subsidy.

"The move is to provide relief to the farmers grappling with low rainfall till date in June," Singh said and added that it would bring much-needed relief to kharif crop growers.

In 2010, the Bihar government declared all the 38 districts "drought-hit" due to a rainfall deficit of nearly 25 percent. Inadequate rains had severely hit paddy sowing and transplantation in most districts except Araria, and East and West Champaran.

In 2009, the government declared 26 districts drought-hit.

IANS