Jharkhand may be declared drought-hit again this year

Paddy planted in just 44% of target area this year, 37% rainfall deficit recorded till now this monsoon

By Anand Dutt
Published: Friday 25 August 2023

Farmers in Jharkhand are distraught due to deficit in rainfall in monsoon 2023. The state is again facing a drought-like situation like last year and less than half of target cropping area for paddy has been planted this Kharif season. 

A few farmers near Ranchi said they are considering irrigation for growing paddy. “I was talking to other farmers on August 22, 2023 and we discussed if it was possible to irrigate and transplant rice,” said farmer Uday Kumar, who lives in Mandar block, 30 kilometers away from the capital Ranchi.

Read more: Monsoon 2022: Why a drought wasn’t declared in 4 states with drought-like conditions

“People are trying it and there may be some produce in fields with pits. But the straw is turning yellow in terraced fields,” he said

There is some hope for more rain, which can salvage some crops. But farmers have already started discussing potential losses and which crops they can plant in February-March next year. 

The state may receive good rainfall till August 26, according to a forecast by the regional centre of the India Meteorological Department. Jharkhand has seen a 37 per cent deficit in rainfall this time. Through August 20, it saw only 422.7 millimetres of rain compared to the normal rainfall of 689.8 mm.

Sowing targets not met

Paddy is cultivated on about 1.8 million hectares of land in Jharkhand. Through August 18, only 43.66 per cent acreage of the total area was sown with paddy — around 785,000 hectares.

The situation is critical in eight out of the total 24 districts in the state. Palamu district has recorded the lowest paddy transplanting rate of 2.96 per cent in the state till August 18. Jamtara followed at 5.63 per cent, Dumka 7.66 per cent, Garhwa 8.43 per cent, Dhanbad 10.26 per cent, Giridih 11.4 per cent, Koderma 12.61 per cent and Chatra 16.35 per cent. 

Other than paddy, maize has been planted on 221,000 hectares instead of 312,000 hectares this year. Instead of the usual 612,000 hectares, pulses have been planted on 299,000 hectares, oilseeds on 27,000 hectares instead of 60,000 hectares and coarse cereals on 26,000 hectares instead of 42,000 hectares. 

The effect of drought-like conditions are already visible — people have started stocking up paddy.

Read more: Kharif sowing period almost over, but huge deficit for paddy and pulses

Many people sell the rice they get under the public distribution system in the local market. Until three weeks ago, this rice was available at Rs 20 per kilogram in a local market in Bedo block. At present, its rate has doubled to Rs 40 per kg. The prices for local-brand rice has also increased. 

The state government has informed the Centre there are chances of drought for the second consecutive year. Recently, the central government called the officers of several states to Delhi to inquire about the crop production in the Kharif season. 

Officials from Jharkhand told the Centre that paddy is usually planted till August 15 in the state. However, this time, only 40 per cent of the fields have been planted as per the target.

On this, the Center said that the monsoon has arrived late, so officials should wait till August 30 and then submit the report on the agricultural status.

“The state government is keeping the Centre informed of the situation. We are preparing to help out farmers,” said Abu Bakar Siddique, Indian Administrative Service secretary, department of agriculture, animal husbandry and cooperative. 

The state government has already asked farmers to fill forms for drought relief. According to a notification issued by the Union Ministry of Agriculture, paddy and corn have been notified for the Crop Relief Scheme 2023-24. Farmers have been told to fill out and submit this form by September 30.

Last year, the Jharkhand government had declared 256 blocks of the state as drought-affected and demanded a financial package of Rs 9,682 crore from the Centre. The central government permitted the state to spend about Rs 500 crore from the Disaster Relief Fund, but it was not enough to provide relief to the farmers.

Read more: Monsoon 2022: Jharkhand farmers give up on paddy harvest due to scanty rains

Kumar told Down To Earth (DTE) he filled the form for drought relief in the year 2018-19 but has received the compensation this year. He received Rs 70,000 as drought relief for 15 acres of land. But a large number of other farmers who faced huge losses did not receive benefits, he said. 

Farmer Ashraf Khan doesn’t own any fields and rents farmland. “I farm on someone else’s land and bear the cost of planting crops, fertilisers, seeds, water and wages. I suffer losses when there is a drought but the landowner gets compensation money,” he told DTE. 

There are thousands of farmers like him in Jharkhand. For now, they all must wait till August 30 with hope and apprehension, when the state government will send the drought report to the central government.

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