Bihar: 7,841 Villages Declared Drought-hit, Affected Farmers to get Financial Assistance
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI
Patna: After a gap of two years, deficient rainfall and a long dry spell during the monsoon season that badly affected paddy cultivation forced the state government to declare parts of 11 districts drought-hit. This has come as a big relief for thousands of farmers, mostly small and marginal, who were left disappointed with the poor monsoon and failed to transplant paddy saplings due to lack of water.
The India Meteorological Department's (IMD) official rainfall data so far is clear that the state recorded a significant deficit in rainfall.
The government has delayed its decision to declare some districts drought-hit despite reports of the drought-like situation and repeated demand by the farmers there.
As expected, in its meeting on Thursday, the state cabinet declared 7,841 villages under 937 panchayats in 96 blocks of 11 districts as drought-hit. The drought-hit villages have been identified in Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Nawada, Sheikhpura, Banka, Jamui, Munger, Lakhisarai and Nalanda and Bhagalpur.
Additional chief secretary (ACS), S Siddharth, told the media that the government had sanctioned Rs 500 crore from the state contingency fund as special assistance to the families of drought-hit villages. The local administrative officials have been directed to identify drought-affected families in these villages to provide them with financial assistance of Rs 3,500.
A senior officer of the Bihar Disaster Management Department told NewsClick that after a ground survey of the drought-like situation in the state because of deficit rainfall this year, it was found that farmers in some blocks of some districts failed to cultivate Kharif crops, mainly paddy.
A proposal was prepared to declare a specific revenue village under a panchayat in a block of a particular district was sent to the office of chief minister Nitish Kumar. Taking note of the department's suggestions, villages under different blocks of districts were declared drought-hit in place of the entire district.
"All those areas declared drought-hit recorded more than 30% deficit rainfall and less than 70% paddy coverage," the officer said.
As per the official release of the department, this year, the monsoon was poor in the state, and rainfall was erratic. The state recorded 60% rain deficiency in July and 37% in August, the main season of paddy cultivation, including the transplantation of paddy saplings.
Considering this, Chief Minister, in August and September, undertook an aerial survey of several districts facing drought-like situations.
Agriculture scientists and climate change experts pointed out that the state government has declared hundreds of villages drought-hit amid reports of heavy rains last week and early this week to light to moderate rains in the last few days. It is deemed another example of climate change-induced changing rainfall patterns in Bihar, a new challenge for farmers.
In recent years, poor monsoons, long dry spells and erratic rainfall followed by untimely heavy rainfall badly affected farmers and destroyed their Kharif crops. Sowing for Rabi crops was delayed as farmlands are waterlogged or have deep moisture.
The department officials said Bihar recorded 683.4 millimetres (mm) of rainfall from June 1 to September 30. This was nearly 31% less than the normal 992.2 mm of rainfall during the period.
Agriculture department officials said the paddy coverage in the state was nearly 87% against the target of 35 lakh hectares. It experienced 35% deficient rains from June 1 to September 7, as per data from the agriculture department. In 2021, the paddy coverage was 98% of the targeted 33 lakh hectares.
Not only that, nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activity in the state is dependent on the rains. For most of the state's population, a good monsoon is often the difference between life and death.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar's economy, employing 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state's domestic product, according to the state government's figures. About 76% of Bihar's population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood.
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