Maharashtra in the grip of severest drought since 1972
maharashtra seems to be heading towards a drought-year. On July 9, the state government declared a 'drought-like' situation in 16 districts of the state. The Maharashtra cabinet took this decision in view of the below-average rainfall in many regions of the state that has led to crop loss, delayed sowing, acute drinking water and power shortage.
According to official data released on July 9, 16 of the 35 districts in the state have received less than 50 per cent of the normal rainfall. Nashik, Solapur and Marathwada are the worst affected regions they have received less than 10 per cent of their average rainfall. Only five districts--Mumbai, Mumbai suburban, Thane, Raigad and Satar--have received above average rainfall. The situation elsewhere in the state is grim only 31 per cent sowing is complete and the dams are barely 22 per cent full.Vilasrao Deshmukh, the state's chief minister, has communicated to the Union ministry of agriculture that this year could be worse than 1972 when the state was hit by one of the worst droughts in its history.
The situation has prompted the state to launch an unique employment guarantee scheme (egs) which involves providing work--actually unskilled labour like digging trenches, bunding, planting trees--on demand to any villager. The government has issued orders to all district collectors to launch works under egs and also supply water in affected villages through water tankers. It has also announced a slew of measures to tackle the impending drought, but the situation is only worsening by the day. It has also issued orders directing the revenue department to stop collecting revenue from affected farmers and not cut their electricity supply.
Marathwada region is one of the worst affected regions in Maharashtra where farmers have already declared a drought year. They claim that even if the rains came now, it would be of little use as sowing has been delayed and a season lost. At best, a bajra crop can be taken, they say. The yield of kharif pulses such as udad, moong and toor is expected to be badly affected, further increasing pulse prices.
With elections round the corner, the state's chief minister and deputy chief minister are touring the drought-affected areas to assuage the drought-struck, some of whom have been driven to seek divine intervention. Women from Nanegaon and Pasegaon in Paithan tehsil of Aurangabad district have brought water from the river Godavari to perform 'abhishek' of God Shankara, a ritual they believe will 'please' the rain god. On July 9, the day drought-like situation was declared, a special mass namaaz was offered at the Idgah at Omerga taluka in Osmanabad.
According to the Aurangabad revenue commissioner's office, 67 of the 76 tehsils in Marathwada region have received less than 50 per cent rainfall. Only 19 per cent of the arable land is under crops in the region, considered a backward area of the state.
The situation is tense in Beed, Latur and Osmanabad districts. Sowing was complete on about 1-2 per cent of the arable land. Dams in Marathwada such as Yeldari, Siddheshwar, Majalgaon and Manjra are totally dry. Jayakwadi, Nimna Terna and Manar are only 23 per cent, 12 per cent and 9 per cent full respectively. Groundwater levels are dipping fast and there is an enormous scarcity of drinking water. In Marathwada alone 1,108 water tankers have been pressed into service to supply drinking water to 1,414 villages.
The Down To Earth correspondent came across disturbing stories in the affected villages. Dagdu Waghmode, farmer of a small village Adgaon Budruk in Aurangabad district, says, "We have purchased seeds and pesticides; and 25 per cent farmers have even completed the sowing. And now everyone is waiting for the rains. But it seems to be playing truant. All seeds and pesticides will go waste now. We cannot use these pesticides next year because by then they will be stone hard." Most farmers have taken loans for purchasing seeds and pesticides, and do not know how to repay. "Two months back I purchased a pair of bulls for Rs 50,000. Now when I try to sell them, no one is ready to give me even Rs 20,000. If these cattle die, it will take me at least 10 years to buy a pair," Waghmode rues.
|Two months back I purchased a pair of bulls for Rs 50,000. Now when I try to sell them, no one is ready to give me even Rs 20,000. If these cattle die, it will take me at least 10 years to buy a pair|
Adgaon Budruk village, Aurangabad
|I have no option but to cut down my parched orange trees. So far I have cut more than 100 trees. I have no money for either seeds or pesticides. This year I took a loan of Rs 14,000 at an interest rate of 5 per cent|
Adgaon Budruk village, Aurangabad
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.