Denial over real drought

Country’s top agriculture leadership may be in denial and pushing the threshold but the drought fear is for real.

Ask million of farmers across India, they would tell you, that the ground situation is grim.

A report from Nagpur reported suicide by three farmers in drought hit VIdarbha region on Maharashtra in the last 48 hours. Situation is no better in large vegetable and fruit belt in India where the production has been bare minimal despite good crop estimate.

Satellite imaging clearly shows reduced greening in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Kerala, covering more than 70 percent of country’s population. Central Water Commission’s report shows huge dip in water in 84 major reservoirs of the country.

Despite the facts speaking for them-self, Agriculture ministry headed by Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar has been in a constant denial. When monsoon got delayed in first week of July, resulting in shortfall of 23 %, Pawar said that there would be drought if rainfall remains below normal in the next 15 days.

Earlier this week, when rain shortfall of 33 % was reported, Pawar wanted everyone to believe that was no reason to panic and said India has a window of another fortnight. “We have not reached the drought situation yet. This year monsoon is playing hide and seek. It is a challenge for our farmers to maintain the same performance as compared to the last two years,” he said.

Pawar still fell short of calling drought and push the government into action before it is too later. The reason for this denial is simple. The agri-mandarins are cut-off from the ground realities and use technology to manipulate the assessments. Sitting in their air-conditioned offices in Delhi or state capitals, the babus look at the opaque data-sheets and make assessments not reflecting the real picture.

What they hide shows reality. Agriculture ministry’s own data shows that of the 1,057 lakh hectares of farmland that is cultivated for kharif in normal years, just 428 lakh hectares has been sowed this year. Another report, by National Rainfed Area Authority, has urged the government to take contingency measures to prevent the repeat of 2009 drought situation.

It is time for the government to act or farmers, who account for almost half of the country’s population, would be in desperate situation. The crop failure or poor production would result in reduced earnings from the farmland where the input costs — labour, fertilizer and seeds — have been increasing at a rapid pace. The government has to implement the contingency plan, which has been framed up, to save the grave situation. Or else, country’s economy will see further dip and food prices will sky rocket.

While India is still waiting the United States have acted to overcome its worst drought since 1956. The drought scorching the Midwest is spanning 55 percent of the contiguous United States and is the worst since 1956, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had said in a report posted on its website this week. May be, US acting may trigger the government to take action.

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