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Bihar: Fear of Drought-like Situation Haunts Farmers due to Deficient Rainfall

The poor rainfall in June and July has disrupted the process of paddy transplantation for thousands of farmers across Bihar.

Patna: Unexpected long dry spells during ongoing July worry farmers in Bihar as they fear another drought-like situation this year. The state recorded 43% less than the normal rainfall from June 1 to July 23, per the rainfall report of the Indian Meteorological Department Centre, Patna.

An official at IMD Centre, Patna, told NewsClick that as per official data, the state recorded 240.7 mm of rainfall against the normal 422.6 mm rainfall, which is 181.9 mm less.

Fear of a likely drought-like situation is gaining ground with each passing day among lakhs of farmers across the state. Poor monsoon has upset farmers in drought-prone Gaya, Jahanabad, Aurangabad, Nawada, and Arwal districts and flood-prone Supaul and Sitamarhi districts.

Even in Patna district, farmers are either struggling to complete paddy seedlings transplantation with the help of a motor pump or are working hard to save transplanted paddy.

"Lack of rainfall affects transplanted paddy because farmland is drying and developing cracks, a bad sign for rainfed paddy cultivation. This is an alarming situation. If there are no rains by the end of July, a drought-like situation will hit us," Dinesh Sharma, a farmer, said.

Sharma said paddy transplantation is already delayed due to poor rains in June and July. Paddy is the main crop during the ongoing Kharif season. 

"We are facing scorching weather and a dry Sawan, traditionally a month of heavy monsoon rains. We have no option but to depend on the monsoon. Only heavy rains can save our paddy cultivation."

Hareram Yadav, a farmer from Jahanabad, said a drought-like situation is not far away if the dry spell does not end soon.

"We need heavy rains soon to complete paddy transplantation and save paddy seedlings already transplanted. Farmers have no choice except to look at the sky for rain as it is the only hope for paddy cultivation. It is bound to affect paddy production."

Both Sharma and Yadav said contrary to their expectations, the scorching sun, high humidity and hot climate in July last week were bad for paddy growing farmers, who are facing a big challenge of lack of adequate water due to deficient rainfall.

A district agriculture official said that only 25% of paddy transplantation was completed in Jahanabad due to deficient rainfall.

"Farmers are eagerly waiting for rains for paddy transplantation. Their paddy seedlings are drying due to rising day temperatures and lack of water. The department has advised them to save paddy seedlings as rains are expected by the end of this week or next week in the light of the weather forecast."

For those farmers, a small number, 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 given the deficient rainfall so far.

An official of the state agriculture department said that till July 24, little over 30% of paddy seedling transplantation had been completed. The department has targeted 36 lakh hectares for paddy cultivation this year.

Farmers' fears are not without substance. Of 38 districts, 26 have received 59% less than normal rains. Officials of the IMD here have ruled out rains till July 26-27. This is bad news for rice-growing farmers fighting to keep paddy saplings alive in their small nurseries. The IMD Patna clarified that there is little chance or possibility of rain in the next few days.

Agriculture scientist SK Singh said that June-end to July 10-15 is the best time for paddy transplantation, but farmers face a big problem due to poor monsoon.

Taking serious note of the poor monsoon, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held a meeting to review the situation last week. Kumar directed officials to make all necessary preparations to help farmers facing deficient rainfall.

The State Agriculture Department has already alerted the districts and asked the officials concerned to prepare for the cultivation of optional crops that require less water.

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