Farmers suffer as states yet to declare drought

31% of the districts in India are struck by drought according to IMD but many states are yet to declare drought, leaving the already agonised farmer distressed

By Jitendra
Published: Friday 09 November 2018
Gujarat, where 67 per cent of districts received deficient rainfall, is yet to declare a drought. Credit: Getty Images Gujarat, where 67 per cent of districts received deficient rainfall, is yet to declare a drought. Credit: Getty Images

More than a month after the India Meterological Department (IMD) declared that 255 districts of the country recorded deficient (-59 to -20 per cent) or scanty (-99 to -60) rainfall, many state governments are yet to declare drought in their respective states. These districts account for 31 per cent of all districts in India where drought has been declared on the pretext of a deficit Southwest monsoon.

According to data from IMD, the Southwest monsoon season showed a 9 per cent deficit in rainfall in the country between June 1 and September 30, 2018. More than 50 per cent of the districts in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa received deficient rainfall. The post-monsoon analysis report of IMD shows that India received 91 per cent of monsoon from its Long Period Average. East and Northeast India recorded a deficit of 24 per cent.

Seasonal rainfalls over Northwest India (98 per cent), Central India (93 per cent), South Peninsula (98 per cent) and Northeast India (76 per cent) were of Long period Average. The total 36 meteorological subdivisions, 23 subdivisions, constituting 68 per cent of the total area of the country, received normal season rainfall and one subdivision received excess rainfall (1 per cent of the total area).

Some states, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand declared drought. Mitigation measures were also stepped up, such as ensuring drinking water facilities, seeds for Rabi season, employments through MGNREGS, electricity and education fee waivers to farmers of affected areas. Some states also demanded help from the Union government to mitigate the situation.

Places that are officially drought hit

State Districts Talukas
Karnataka 23 86
Maharashtra 37 151
Andhra Pradesh 6 NA
Odisha 9 66
Jharkhand 18 191
Bihar 23 206

States that have not declared drought

However, Gujarat, where 67 per cent of districts received deficient rainfall, is yet to declare a drought. The Saurashtra and Kutch region received -34 per cent deficit rainfall, whereas East and South Gujarat recorded a deficit of -24 per cent.

Assam has received -26 per cent of deficit rainfall but not yet declared drought districts. There are 10 districts which received deficit rainfall.

Even a large chunk of Uttar Pradesh received 40 per cent deficit monsoon but the state has not declared drought. Ten districts in West Bengal received deficit rainfall of more than 20 per cent but the state is yet to declare drought. West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh contribute more than one-fourth of India’s rice production.

In Jharkhand, after the opposition party Jharkhand Mukti Mocha submitted a memorandum to the Governor, the state government was forced to declare drought. The state recorded a 28 per cent deficit in rainfall.

Reason behind unwillingness

The unwillingness on the part of state governments to declare drought is due to the new definition of drought. According to a new manual on drought management issued by the Union Ministry  of Agriculture in December 2016, the Centre will only provide funds to state governments in case of "Severe" drought, not "mild".

Since the yardstick to measure the severity of drought is stricter, the new conditions make it more difficult for the states to prove "severe" drought and get relief from the Centre. This is a double whammy for most states as they lack drought early warning systems. The 2009 norms were supportive of states as they could get the Centre’s assistance even if they suffered "moderate" drought. Although the new norms don’t prevent states to put a drought-hit region under the "moderate" category, the states, however, will have to pay for the relief from their own budget. The Centre has absolved itself from the responsibility of providing assistance to states in case of "moderate" drought.

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