Patna/Raghunathpur/Hajipur: Mahesh Sharma is a happy man. A farmer in Naubatpur near Patna, he was pushed into near destitution after facing two consecutive years of drought. But with showers lashing Patna and many parts of Bihar for the past few days, the rain gods have given him the Indian farmers` staple diet - hope.
"Rains are like gold for us. We welcomed the showers by preparing a sweet-dish. Unlike the last two years, we hope to have a good paddy crop this season," Sharma told a news agency, with a broad smile on his face.
Sharma is among the estimated 70 million people, two-thirds of Bihar`s population of 105 million, who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
Not only that nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activity in the state is dependent on the rains.
For most of the state`s population, therefore, a good monsoon is often the difference between life and death.
"Rains have brought hope for us. If there was a drought again this year, farmers like me would have no hope for a good harvest," said a frail Mustafa Khan, who owns less than four acres of farmland in Raghunathpur village of Aurangabad district.
"I am praying to god for a normal monsoon this time," he added.
Ashok Yadav, who lives in Rampur village near Hajipur, the district headquarters of Vaishali, has already started sowing paddy, as the rains have softened the ground.
"With more rains in the next few days, the water will be sufficient for paddy transplantation and its survival," he told a news agency.
"I don`t know about the next few days, but at present, the farmers are happy," said Rameshwar Singh, who owns nearly 10 acres of land in Begusarai district.
Last year, the Bihar government declared all the 38 districts drought-hit due to a rainfall deficit of nearly 22 percent. Inadequate rains had severely hit paddy sowing and transplantation in most districts, barring Araria and East and West Champaran.
In 2009, the government declared 26 districts drought-hit.
Clearly, even the government is hoping against a repeat of the conditions seen in the previous two years.
The state`s Agriculture Production Commissioner AK Sinha said he was hoping that a normal monsoon this year will help Bihar achieve its food production target.
"We will cross our target of 16 million tonnes food production this year if there is no rainfall deficit," he said.
According to Animesh Chandra, director of the India Meteorological Department, Patna, many districts in the state have received more than normal rainfall since June 18.
The monsoon usually hits the state June 12-14.
"We expect a normal monsoon this year," Chandra said.
According to the state agriculture department, Bihar received 682.6 mm of rainfall in 2010 and 871.3 mm in 2009. In a normal monsoon year, the state receives nearly 1,100 mm of rainfall.