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Bihar: Farmers Demand Govt. to Declare State Drought-Hit Due to Deficient Rainfall

Lack of water adversely affecting paddy cultivation, hundreds of farmers in Banka stage Maha Dharna

File Photo.

Patna: Hundreds of farmers in Bihar’s Banka district on Wednesday staged a maha dharna demanding the state government declared drought in view of deficient rainfall during the ongoing monsoon season. It has adversely affected paddy cultivation. Similarly, farmers in nearly half a dozen districts including Jamui, Sheikhpura, Munger, Nawada, Gaya, and Aurangabad are also demanding to declare them drought-hit as there is a lack of water for paddy cultivation due to poor monsoon so far.

After a gap of two years, the demand for declaring a drought has surfaced in the state. Unlike this year, Bihar received surplus rainfall in June, July and August in 2021 and 2020. Farmers were happy as paddy output increased. With a large part of the state in the grips of a drought-like situation, it is set to affect paddy production.

According to reports, farmers raised slogans demanding to declare Banka a drought-affected district without delay. “We are facing drought and the government should declare it to provide us with some help. There is no hope for Kharif crops, mainly rice because farmers have failed to cultivate on their land due to no rain,” Kamlesh Mandal, a farmer, told NewsClick.

Mandal, one of the hundreds of farmers who demanded to declare them drought hit, said farmers have been facing difficult times and will struggle for survival.

According to the state agriculture department, official figures for transplantation of paddy seedlings is very low in Banka. “Only 17% transplantation of paddy seedlings was completed till August 16 in the district and large tracts of land remain uncultivable due to deficient rainfall,” an official told the press.

As per the rainfall data so far, it is clear that the state recorded a large deficit in rainfall. This badly hit the transplantation of paddy seedlings. An official of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) Centre, Patna, said Bihar recorded 389.5 millimetres (mm) of rainfall from June 1 to August 16. This was 40% less than the normal 648.3 mm of rainfall.

Farmers in nearly 20 of 38 districts of the state are facing the brunt of deficient rainfall and it is evident as transplantation of paddy seedlings were completed either half of the target or a little over half to date. Farmers of only a handful of the districts including Kishanganj, Purnia and Katihar have been able to achieve a 100% target of transplantation of paddy seedlings following sufficient rainfall in the districts.

However, farmers in other districts are waking up with the hope of rain but are disappointed daily. Their farmland has developed cracks and they are uncertain about how to save rain-fed paddy crops without normal rainfall during July and August.

The official data of the state agriculture department said paddy seedlings were transplanted in 27.48 lakh hectares out of a total target of 35.12 lakh hectares for paddy cultivation this year, which is 78%.

Thousands of farmers across Bihar, mostly marginal, have been upset as clouds come and go without drops of rain. It is contrary to their expectation. “More than 95 % of farmers in Jamui have failed to cultivate paddy in their farmland due to lack of water. As we are fully dependent on rains for paddy, this year is a drought year for us. If there are no rains, there is no paddy, our main crop, during the ongoing Kharif season.” Rajesh Singh, a farmer from Jamui told NewsClick.

According to the agriculture department, Jamui has reported only 6% plantation of paddy seedlings. It is the lowest in the state.

For the small number of farmers who have transplanted paddy saplings in their farmland with the help of diesel pumps or electric pumps, a big challenge is to save them from heat stress in view of deficit rainfall so far. If reports reaching Patna are to be believed, unlike in the past, there is no water for irrigation in the canals. A large part of central Bihar is irrigated by water from the Sone river, brought in through canals.

Demand to declare drought is rising by the day in the state. For the new government of Janata Dal-United and Mahagathbandhan that was formed last week, ignoring farmers' demands is not easy as their main social support base is farmers.

The state government has so far not declared any district drought-hit.

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