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North Maharashtra Awaits Rain, Farmers Worried about Possible Drought

The crop sowing season is almost at the last leg but North Maharashtra is facing a huge rain deficit.
North Maharashtra Awaits Rain, Farmers Worried about Possible Drought

Image Courtesy: Reuters

Vikas Mohod, a tur (pigeon pea) growing farmer from Balapur teshil of Maharashtra’s Akola district, is facing a challenge of re-sowing the crop this year. "It looks like our first sowing would go to waste as there is no rain. Double sowing means double expenses. For seeds, for labour work and all. We feel like there would be drought this year," said Vikas. His district is having -50% rain (i.e. deficit in rainfall), which is one of the worst in the entire state. 

According to the Indian Meteorological Department's data, six out of 35 districts in Maharashtra are facing serious rain deficit. Four of these districts are from the North Maharashtra region whereas two are from the West Vidarbha region. Nandurbar, a hilly tribal district, is having -57% rain, which is unusual in many ways. Akola from Vidarbha is having -50%, Buldhana -24%, Dhule -46%, Nasik -37% and Jalgaon -29% rain. In rest of the Maharashtra, Osmanabad, Ahmednagar, Beed, Hingoli, Jalana are also facing upto 20% rain deficit. 

Gunavant Khapare from Dhule's Sakri tehsil has sown soya seeds in the first week of June. He took a loan of Rs 55,000 from a credit society for this sowing season. If rains continue to get delayed, Gunvant would not have any chance to save his first sowing. So, he will have to go for a second round. "As of now, it seems that a second sowing is needed. But we don't have money for that. The credit society too would not give more loan. This happens every drought year. Lets hope for rains," said Gunvant. 

Farmers unions have been asking the state to start working on a proposal of help farmers in re-sowing season. "In the backdrop of lockdown and no income, this would be a major blow to farmers, especially the small farmers who have land less than two acres. In such a condition, it is better to start identifying less rain area right now," said Kisan Gujar, Maharashtra state president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)

The rain deficit will badly affect all the crops, and mainly cotton, soya bean, tur as well as horticulture. Maharashtra had seen drought in 2019. If rains do not arrive this year, then it will be second drought in three years. So, the task at hand for the state government is to not let farmers slip into the vicious cycle of loans. This is why, wherever re-sowing is needed in the state, farmers say they need immediate aid in cash. 

Rajaram Dhivare is an onion-growing farmer from Chalisgaon tehsil of Jalgaon. He has sown onion on two acres and chilli on half an acre. He spent around Rs 45,000 in total including labour, diesel for tractor as well as other related works. His daughter Shweta has passed the twelfth standard examination and Rajaram wants her to get further education in Jalgaon or Nasik, which are nearby cities. "But I will need money for her education. Right now, everything is online. But if I had to keep her in the city, in a hostel, she will need money. This re-sowing would push me to take more loan for her," said Rajaram. 

Farmers always have multiple challenges at hand while their resources are minimum. In such a case, they look after the government to get a helping hand. The lesser rain has now added to their worry. 

"We thought that the recent two days session of legislative houses would discuss farmers issues, including less rain this year. But all major parties, from both government and opposition benches, were more interested in making non issues bigger. At least, the state should give relief to farmers now by asking district banks to immediately give loans to whoever is in need," said Dr Ajit Navale, general secretary of AIKS. 

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