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Eastern states face spectre of drought

Kushadhwaja Choudhury (46), a resident of Basada village in Jamankira block of northwest Orissa’s Sambalpur distict, is known for trying out innovative methods of farming in the area.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2010 01:50 IST
Priya Ranjan Sahu

Kushadhwaja Choudhury (46), a resident of Basada village in Jamankira block of northwest Orissa’s Sambalpur distict, is known for trying out innovative methods of farming in the area.

But two successive droughts in the region have unnerved him. “I sowed paddy in 20 acres of land,” said a dejected Choudhury. “But I won’t go in for transplantation.”

The spectre of drought stares Orissa, threatening to hit the kharif (summer) paddy crop.

Out of the state’s 30 districts, agricultural activities have been seriously affected in at least 11 districts because of deficient rainfall. The state received 16 per cent less rain this monsoon, down from the average normal of 773.6 mm, till mid-August.

“We desperately need rainfall in the next 10 days,” said Orissa Revenue Minister Surya Narayan Patro. “Otherwise, the situation will go out of hand.” Of 314 blocks in the state, only 91 had received normal rain in June, July and August, he said.

Orissa is not the only state severely hit by deficient rainfall — when parts of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are deluged by rain.

With a deficit of 31 per cent and many irrigation schemes in a shambles, all 38 districts of Bihar are facing a drought-like situation.

According to state estimates, around 15 million rural families are experiencing shortages of food, fodder and drinking water.

Paddy is cultivated in 3.8 million hectares in Bihar. But because of scanty rainfall, only 50 per cent paddy transplantation is complete this year.

“Without the Centre’s support it would be difficult for the state to tackle the situation as this is the second consecutive year when Bihar has received deficient rain,” Agriculture Minister Renu Kumari said.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking Rs 5,069 crore to provide succour to drought-hit people.

In neighbouring Jharkhand, Governor M.O.H. Farook’s advisory council has already declared the entire state drought-hit. Rainfall has been 45 to 60 per cent below normal this year.

With an average rain shortfall of 33 per cent, the situation in 11 drought-stricken districts of south Bengal is worsening.

With one fourth of the state’s area declared drought-affected, there will be no paddy farming on 1.1 million hectares this season, Agriculture Minister Naren De said. This would mean a paddy shortfall of at least 1.7 million tonnes.

(Inputs from Aloke Chatterjee in Patna, B. Vijay Murty in Ranchi and Kolkata bureau)