Fearless Talk: Why Is The State Govt Callous About Drought?

Fearless Talk: Why Is The State Govt Callous About Drought?

With agricultural activity affected, there will not be enough work for farm labourers and they are bound to be driven further into poverty

Abhay MokashiUpdated: Saturday, October 14, 2023, 12:29 AM IST
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Drought | Representative image

A large part of Maharashtra is reeling under a drought-like situation, with below normal rainfall in almost all the districts in the state. Nearly half the districts in the state have been severely affected due to insufficient rainfall and the government has not yet declared a drought in even the worst affected districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha.

The Opposition parties have been demanding that the government declare drought in those districts. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Member of the Lok Sabha Supriya Sule, demanded on September 3 that the farmers must immediately get crop insurance benefits, due to the damage caused to their crop, as a result of shortage of rainfall, which she said was less than 80% of the average rainfall for respective districts.

State Congress President Nana Patole has demanded that the government declare a drought at least in Marathwada. Leaders of almost all the political parties in the state and at the national level are addicted to making political statements, to show the rival political party in a bad light and for their own political gains. However, the statements made by Sule, Patole and several other Opposition leaders in the state cannot be said to be political in nature, as district-wise records of rainfall in the state are in the public domain and a cursory look at the figures would make even a person, unaware of the nuances of agriculture, understand that there is shortage of rainfall in most parts of the state and that could lead to water shortage in those parts.

Already, over 2,000 villages in the state are being provided with potable water through tankers. This is the situation since at least the last couple of weeks, reflecting that the situation in the coming days is going to be worse and it will affect more parts of the state.

The shortage of rainfall in the state has affected the agricultural sector in a big way, causing huge financial loss to the farmers. The worst affected are the small and marginal farmers.

Problems started for the farmers from June-July. Initially, the onset of monsoon was delayed, affecting agricultural work. Later, there were long dry spells, which led to burning of crops. That led to financial losses on seeds and labour.

It is painful that political leaders have confined themselves to sloganeering and blame games, instead of coming out with proper solutions to handle the situation and to reduce the problems of the public at large and the farmers in particular.

With such an attitude of the leaders, not much is expected from the general public, most of whom are ignorant about the issues that concern the farmers and the rural people. Those used to a forceful flow of water on turning the tap protest when there is a slight drop in the water pressure. Such people are unaware of what it means to walk miles to fetch water or to wait for days for the tanker to come to provide them water to drink.

After a few months, several cities and towns in Maharashtra are bound to face water shortage as the lakes and dams providing them drinking water are not full to capacity. Unless the local bodies take stringent measures, there will be a grave situation, as a majority of the population does not follow water conservation methods; and rain water harvesting is beyond their imagination.

In the rural areas, the much publicised Shivar Yojana has failed to meet its target, of rain water harvesting and conservation.

While the Opposition leaders are speaking up for the farmers, there is no saviour for the landless or the farm labourers. With agricultural activity affected, there will not be enough work for farm labourers and they are bound to be driven further into poverty.

Agricultural scientists have predicted a rise in prices of agricultural produce due to low production. This will have a snowballing effect on the economy and there is bound to be inflation. As a result, there will be further aggravation of the problems of the poor and will push the middle and lower middle class to the wall.

The government’s reaction to the Opposition demand is by and large confined to words, rather than deeds. This is because the ministers are still busy in holding rallies, addressing meetings, trying to increase their vote bank by gimmicks like ‘government at your doorstep’ and in the infighting for appointment as guardian ministers.

The ‘government at your doorstep’ campaign is a fraud on the public, as such programmes, held at a huge cost, are far from their residences, involving spending of money and time on the part of the public to seek remedial measures for issues.

Instead of fighting over the allocation of districts to be guardian ministers, they should have spent their time in resolving the problems arising out of the rain shortfall.

But for the additional expenditure that would be incurred on declaring some districts as drought affected, the government has nothing to lose, except that the ministers will have to devote their time and energy on the implementation of the provisions mentioned in the Manual for Drought Management, 2016. Since currently there is a trend in the country to take credit for other people’s work, it should be mentioned that the manual was prepared in 2009 and was revised in 2016.

The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi

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