Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Times Of India
Till last Friday, Anil Yadav, a farmer from Bhagwatipur village near Patna in Bihar, was worried over the poor monsoon. But his worries, along with a number of others like him, have been washed away by the heavy rains that has been lashing Bihar since last Sunday, July 7.
Yadav, a marginal farmer, who also works as a daily wage labourer in construction sector in Patna to earn livelihood, said, “Continuous rainfall for the last six days has given us hope that there will be no drought like situation.” He has even decided to discontinue working as a wage labourer and stay back in his native village to finish planting paddy saplings in his 1.5 acres farm land since there is adequate rain now, he said.
He is not alone, the recent spell of monsoon rain has brought smiles on the faces of a number of farmers like him, who were uncertain about their paddy crop till the first week of July in the absence of rains.
According to the agriculture department officials, heavy rains have compensated rainfall deficiency of last month. The state recorded 41% less rainfall in June and 43% less rainfall by July first week. However, till July 11, the state has recorded 21% more than the normal rainfall. Usually the state receives 110 mm rains during this period of July, but it has recorded 135.7 mm rains this time.
Also read: Monsoon Delayed, Water Crisis Intensifies in Bihar
Thanks to rainfall after the long dry spell, so far 86% paddy seedlings have been transplanted reportedly. “The positive sign is that farmers in some districts including Bhagalpur, Munger, Banja, and Lakhisarai, where no sapling transplantation had started till last week, have started now,” an official from the agriculture department told NewsClick.
However, till date, transplantation has been reported in only 3.5 lakh hectares, while the state government has targetted paddy cultivation on 33 lakh hectares this year.
Most of the farmers in last year’s drought-hit districts of Gaya, Aurangabad, Nawada of Magadh region, are happy that there is enough water for paddy cultivation, unlike last time. In 2018, the state government had declared 280 blocks of 25 districts drought hit.
Gaya district agriculture officer Ashok Kunar Sinha said crisis of lack of water is over after 75 mm rains were recorded in the last five days. Over 75% of the paddy seed plantation was completed during this period and remaining would be covered within next few days.
Meanwhile, more rains are expected in the next two to three days across the state, and the state disaster department has issued alert in 11 of 38 districts over likely heavy rains.
Commenting on the rains, Bihar Agriculture Minister Prem Kumar told media, “Farmers are happy with the heavy rains. It has provided them a ray of hope amid the drought-like situation.” He said the showers will help farmers save their seedlings from drying up.
Threat of Flood Looms Large
However, with showers lashing Patna and large parts of state and heavy rains reported in Nepal, in the catchment areas of its rivers, the threat of flood looms large in some north Bihar districts. The rise in water levels of river Koshi, Gandak, Bagmati and even Ganga are threatening to inundate
hundreds of villages in half a dozen districts. Even in Patna, many parts are water logged disrupting traffic and forcing some schools to shutdown, said an official of the water resources department.
Also read: Farmers in Bihar Fear Another Drought
Despite good rainfall in the state, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who had held a high level meeting on July 3 to review preparedness to face drought like situation, has called a meeting on July 23 again to review the situation. Disaster department officials had admitted that poor monsoon in Bihar till July 5 has affected paddy sowing — triggering fears of another drought among millions of the state’s farmers, agriculture scientists and officials.
According to government’s own data, nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s population of 11 crore are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, with most of them being small and marginal farmers.
Not only that, nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activity in the state is dependent on the rains.