Patna: About 250 to 300 km away from Patna where the centenary celebration of the Bihar legislature building was being held on Thursday, thousands of farmers, mostly small and marginal, are a worried lot. They are feeling helpless after record rains in the past three days have badly damaged standing paddy crops and vegetables, their source of livelihood. They have no hope of getting any input subsidy for their losses from the government.
Farmers in more than half a dozen districts of the state, including Araria, Kishanganj, Purnia, Katihar, Supaul, Saharsa, Sheohar, Madhrpura, Khagaria,Bhagalpur, have been badly affected by heavy rains that have destroyed the kharif crops, mainly paddy. Besides, sowing for rabi crops will be delayed as farmlands are either waterlogged or having deep moisture.
Heavy rains in these districts and the catchment area of major rivers in neighbouring Nepal have ushered in a flood-like situation in a few places.With flood water starting receding,people in low lying areas have a sigh of relief because heavy rains caused a lot of destruction.It snapped roads,washed away bamboo bridges (chachri) at several places,marooned and cut off villages and displaced people.
Hundreds of those who have been displaced and thousands of people living in low-lying areas near rivers are at risk as flood water has entered dozens of villages. The water level of some of the major rivers and their tributaries, including Koshi, has risen since Tuesday. This forced the authorities to release 2,69 lakh cusecs of water from the Koshi barrage into the river on Wednesday. Authorities have opened 42 of the total 56 sluice gates of Koshi barrage at Birpur in Nepal after the water level rose to an alarming level. The barrage is managed and maintained by the Water Resources Department (WRD) of Bihar.
Till last Sunday, Vipin Singh, Meraj Alam, Dinesh Yadav and Sanjeev Shah, all farmers, were upbeat over the expected bumper paddy harvest. Now the unwanted heavy rains, seen as an extreme weather event by experts, have brought pain and misery.
“I had cultivated paddy in one acre and expected a bumper harvest but unexpected heavy rains have destroyed everything. Paddy crops were ready for harvest and I had big hopes because I had borrowed Rs 7,000 from a local moneylender for seeds, fertiliser and labour. Now I have no idea how I will pay him back,” said Singh, a resident of Kadwa in Katihar.
Singh said rain is like a boon for farmers, but heavy rains came as a curse.
”We have faced three repeated floods during monsoon that had destroyed paddy and now whatever we managed to save is severely damaged. Our hopes lie shattered ahead of Diwali and Chhath,” he added.
Similarly, Alam, a resident of Belon village, who planted paddy crops in nearly two acres, is shocked and unable to accept that half his harvested crops are lying in waterlogged fields and standing crops have fallen on the ground. "Initially heavy rains in early monsoon destroyed our paddy seedlings followed by havoc created by repeated floods, but heavy rains ahead of harvest have completely ruined us. Only a farmer can understand this,” Alam said.
According to local meteorological officials, Katihar received 153 mm rainfall from Monday to Wednesday, an unusual phenomenon.
Farmers in Kishanganj and Saharsa have been echoing more or less similar woes.
”Many farmers who harvested early and left crops in the field to dry have been destroyed,” Yadav, a resident of Thakurganj in Kishanganj, said.
Kishanganj received 198 mm rainfall in two days from Tuesday to Wednesday resulting in flood-like situations in three dozen panchayats.People have not seen a return of flood in October in the last few decades.”This is first time that we faced floods in October in my memory ,low lying areas of dozens of panchayats are still under flood water.” Abdul Rahman ,a marginal farmer said.
Kishanganj district agriculture officer Parveen Jha admitted large scale paddy loss due to heavy rains.”I have directed all block agriculture officers to submit a report after assessment of paddy damage”.
While Supaul received 146 mm rainfall and Saharsa received 130 mm rainfall in the last three days.Kapil Yadav and Govind Yadav,both farmers are shocked after paddy and vegetables crops were destroyed.”Hum barbad ho Gaye,Hamara sab kuch tabah ho Gaya “ Govind,who was about to harvest paddy of his 3 acres and sowed cauliflower and other winter vegetables in over 1 acre totally submerged under rain water.
As per the India Meteorological Department (IMD) data, Bihar has received surplus rainfall to date (so far) in October following the heavy rain since Monday. The officials said rains after October 15 were hardly expected in the state.
In August this year, the state agriculture department released an official estimate of paddy production target of 118 lakh tonne for this year, compared with 90 lakh tonne last year. Officially it was revealed that paddy had been transplanted in nearly 72% of the total 33 lakh hectares identified for paddy production this year, compared with 29.22 lakh hectares last year.
Last week Sanjay Kumar, additional chief secretary in the Cabinet, said repeated floods and surplus rains had damaged standing crops across thousands of hectares as farmlands were submerged for weeks. According to the agriculture department's assessment, the standing crop was damaged in about 663,776.28 hectares due to floods, excessive rains, and waterlogging this year.
Besides, farmers could not even sow in about 141,227 hectares this Kharif season as large tracts of agricultural land remained waterlogged due to excessive rainfall. The state government, for the first time earmarked Rs 100 crore in farm subsidy to farmers who could not cultivate on their land due to waterlogging.
This year till October second week,Bihar has received only 3% surplus rainfall after the monsoon season. This is less than last year when the state received 25% surplus rainfall from June to September.