Patna: Amid the pandemic, thousands of farmers across Bihar are facing a peculiar situation. While farmers in parts of north and eastern Bihar have lost their standing crops to heavy floods, in south and central Bihar, a lack of rainfall in August has left the farmers worried about timely irrigation.
Farmers Mukesh Singh, Harendar Mandal and Suresh Yadav are unable to believe that they will not be able to harvest anything this year as the paddy and maize, their two main kharif crops, were totally damaged by floods.
Singh, Mandal and Yadav are three of thousands of farmers of 105 blocks in over half a dozen districts where flood water fully destroyed their standing crops. “We are left with nothing. Our crops are gone, now we have to wait for the next crop which is only next year,” Singh, a marginal farmer of Gaighat block in Muzaffarpur district said. A more or less similar situation was expressed by Mandal, a farmer of Kusheshwar Asthan block in Darbhanga district, and Yadav of East Champaran district.
“We were happy till July and expected bumper crops in view of the timely arrival of monsoon after years and more than normal rainfall. But, our hopes were dashed due to the floods. Now, the situation is such that more than 90% of our standing crops have been damaged. What will we harvest and what will we eat? There is no hope for income this time,” Mandal told NewsClick.
According to the latest data of the Agriculture Department, a total of 234 blocks in 16 flood affected districts have reported loss of 33% of standing crops due to flood water. Near total loss of standing crops have been reported in 105 blocks of the worst flood hit districts, including Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Khagaria, and East Champaran.
After heavy loss of standing crops, thousands of farmers have been hoping for help or compensation from the government ahead of the upcoming state Assembly polls in October-November.
But farmers like Mahendar Sharma, Avadesh Prasad and Arvind Kushwaha, from the same state, are facing a different problem. They are worried about the lack of water in their fields for proper irrigation by the end of August due to deficit of rainfall, after surplus rainfall in June and July. In August, 29 out the 38 districts in the state have received deficit rainfall, according to IMD.
“There has been very poor rainfall in August, but standing crops badly need irrigation. With temperature rising along with high humidity, fields are drying. Farmers like me have been looking up to the skies every day in hope of rains. Our crops will be in serious trouble if there is no rain in the first week of September,” Sharma, a farmer who owns nearly eight acres of fertile land in Arwal district, told NewsClick.
Also read: Bihar: Only 6 Relief Camps for More Than 8.1 Million Flood Victims
Sharma admitted that a few farmers like him have been using tube wells or pump set for irrigation, but for marginal and small farmers that is not possible.
Earlier, agriculture experts had said that timely good rainfall was a boon for kharif crops and preparation of nursery and subsequent transplantation of paddy in June and July, especially in a state most farmers are dependent on the monsoon rains for their farming.
Bihar has received 27% more than normal rainfall in July and 82% more than normal rainfall in June as compared to June 2019, when Bihar had recorded about 41% less than normal. But Bihar received 25% less than normal rainfall in August this year, which was not expected by the farmers. 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 state agriculture secretary, N Sharvan Kumar, said that here is heavy loss of standing crops due to flood water in the state. As per the latest official data released by the state Disaster Management Department, 8.3 million ( 8362451 ) people have been affected by the floods. But there are only five relief camps in which 4,759 flood victims are staying. The official data are totally silent over the whereabouts of thousands of flood victims who were displaced after flood water inundated their homes and villages.
According to government’s own data, nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s population of 11 crore are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Not only that, nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activity in the state is dependent on the rains. Most of them are small and marginal farmers.
However, with the government and the entire state administration busy in preparation of the Assembly polls, there is little concern for farmers whose standing crops are badly damaged by flood water and those farmers who are in trouble due to the deficit of rain in August. Meanwhile, the state government is trying to woo flood-affected families by announcing a provision of Rs 6,000 for them – a strategy to attract voters ahead of polls. It is a matter to be seen how this amount reaches them and how they will react.
Also read: Bihar: With Elections Approaching, Opposition Corners Nitish Government over Inaction