The South Asian Times

20 January 2018 23:44 PM

Bihar farmers wait for rain God to smile on them

By Imran Khan

Shivnagar (Bihar), July 2: "Will it, won't it?" has been the daily dilemma of farmers Dinesh Kumar and Mahender Rai as they look at the skies every day, expecting rains for paddy sowing.

And they are not alone. For over a week now, hundreds of thousands of farmers in Bihar have had their eyes fixated on the clouds, which come, shed a few drops here and there and go away.

Monsoon normally hits the state between June 12 and 14. But a poor monsoon till the end of June has triggered fears of deficit rainfall again, which could result in a drought-like situation in the state.

Dinesh and Mahender, residents of Shivnagar panchayat under Tekari block in Gaya district, about 100 km from state capital Patna, were hopeful of normal monsoon like last year which had helped them increase their paddy output.

"Farmers like me have been facing a lot of problems because it's not raining. We have no option but to depend on monsoon... See, cracks have developed in the land. If this situation continues till July first week, we will not be able to complete paddy sowing," marginal farmer Dinesh said.

Echoing his sentiments, Mahender said: "Only the rain god can save us. We fear that our paddy seeds would become dry if it doesn't rain soon. We are praying to God to save our lives."

Taking a serious note of poor monsoon to date, the state Agriculture Department has already alerted the districts and asked the officials concerned to prepare for cultivation of optional crop that require less water.

The department has released Rs 90 crore to provide diesel to farmers at subsidised rates under a contingency plan to cope with the drought-like situation.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held a video-conferencing with the district officials on Friday from his official residence in Patna to know the preparedness to face a drought-like situation.

Scanty rain in 36 of Bihar's 38 districts until the last week of June has affected paddy sowing. Except Bhojpur and Jehanabad districts, most other districts have been facing shortage of rainfall, according to the Agriculture Department officials and agri-scientists.

Nine districts, including Gaya, Buxar, Bhagalpur and Nawada, are worst affected, as those have received 60 to 83 per cent less rainfall and 27 districts including Patna, Vaishali, Muzaffarpur have got 20 to 59 per cent less.

The state government has targeted paddy cultivation on 3.44 million hectares of land this year. "To date, paddy seedlings have been reported on just half of the targeted cultivation area," an official said.

Agriculture scientists said paddy plantation should be completed by July 15 for good productivity. Delay in paddy plantation can affect productivity as well as quality.

Last year, on account of normal monsoon, paddy was cultivated on 3.34 million hectares and produced 8.5 million tonnes.

Most of the farmers have also not been able to do transplanting paddy seedlings in view of the lack of water, though the better-off lot has managed to save the seedlings by pumping ground water with diesel.

So, for now, the farmers in Bihar are in a wait and watch mode.

Update: 02 July, 2017

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