Patna: When the onset of monsoon was on time on June 13, which wasa followed by more than average rains in Bihar, farmers Rajendar Rai and Suresh Mahto were happy expecting a bumper kharif crop, mainly of paddy and maize. But by the end of July, their hopes were dashed due to the floods caused by heavy rains which had damaged nearly 50% of their standing crops.
The gushing flood waters have become a cause for worry for thousands of farmers amid the growing threat of COVID-19 pandemic in the state that has reported 48,001 positive cases till July 30 and the death toll stands at 285.
Bihar has received more than 710 mm of rainfall -about 46 % more than normal 476.6 % from June 1 to July 29, according to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data. In June, Bihar received 82% more than normal rainfall as compared to June 2019, when Bihar had recorded only 91.6 mm rainfall — about 41% less than normal.
According to IMD’s annual rainfall reports, Bihar receives 1,027.6 mm rainfall in a normal monsoon year; the average annual rainfall through the year in all seasons is 1,205.6 mm.
The excess rainfall has resulted in early floods in the state. All major rivers have been flowing above the danger mark. Rising water level in rivers forced the authorities to release record water from Koshi and Gandak barrage into rivers that led to spread of flood water in large areas and threatened thousands of people living in low-lying areas. As a result, several thousands have been forced to flee their homes and take shelter on high rise embankments and National Highways to survive.
Also read: Bihar Floods: ‘How Will We Survive While Battling Hunger,’ Say Angry Victims
For Rai and Mahto, both marginal farmers, if poor monsoon or deficit of rainfall was a big problem during June-July last year, surplus rainfall this year has again brought them to a similar situation.
With the flood situation remaining grim in the major parts of north Bihar, including districts bordering neighbouring Nepal, thousands of farmers have lost their only source of livelihood- kharif crops which have been destroyed as fields are submerged under flood water.
“My standing crops -paddy and maize in 3.5 acres land have been heavily damaged by flood water. More than heavy rain since onset of monsoon in Bihar, and overflowing in catchment areas of major rivers -Koshi and Kamla Balan and their tributaries have resulted in flood that has left us with heavy loss,” Rai, a resident of a village under Kusheshwar Sthan block in Darbhanga, one of the worst flood hit districts in Bihar, said.
Similarly, Mahto, who has cultivated paddy and maize in over 4 acres of land, is cursing his fate. “I was very happy in June because after several years, monsoon had arrived on time and it was more than normal rainfall that helped us to complete paddy and maize sowing earlier than expected. Later, we completed transplantation of paddy, maize and sugarcane on time and were hopeful for good crops. But the devastating floods due to rising water level of Bagmati river after heavy rains for over a month have destroyed standing crops and left me hopeless,” Mahto, a resident of a village in Gaighat block in Muzaffarpur district, told NewsClick.
Like Rai and Mahto, thousands of farmers in flood affected Koshi and Seemanchal districts, are worried over heavy loss to their standing paddy and maize crops. In Koshi and Seemanchal, maize is a major crop and both these area are known as hub of maize in the state.
According to agriculture secretary N Sharvan Kumar, standing crops in nearly 4.87 lakh hectares were damaged due to floods as per initial assessment of loss of crops. But the real loss will be known only after flood water recedes.
He said that in view of heavy damage of standing crops, the department has been working to prepare for a contingency plan to provide crop input subsidy to farmers and seeds for sowing alternative crops.
Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar has asked district officials to assess the damage of standing crops including paddy, maize and vegetables in flood affected districts and submit a report.
Farmers in Bihar are heavily dependent on monsoon rains for kharif crops, mainly paddy, which is a water intensive crop. With sufficient rainfall this monsoon, the farmers were upbeat for good harvest.
Thousands of migrant workers, who have returned from outside, are reportedly seen engaged in paddy, maize, jute cultivation in the state. But the majority of the migrant workers, who are landless are working as farm labourers in other fields to earn their livelihood.