The government’s contingency plan for Bihar, which is on the brink of a drought, is to switch to shorter-duration crops. But that’s easier said than done.
Changing to blackgram crop, for example, on a land tilled for paddy requires tilling all over again. Two, seeds need to be readily available.
According to Bihar State Farmers’ Commission head Ramadhar, the state’s paddy sowing area has shrunk by 15-20 per cent. The government has asked farmers to wait for rain but small farmers are not willing to take chances.
“I want to go for jawar...rains are unpredictable. But seeds are not easily available,” said a farmer in Sasaram district.
The government, however, said it had adequate stock of seeds of all crops. But accessibility needs to be improved, said farm expert Y.K Alagh.
The hazard with switching crops is that sudden revival in rains can spell doom because the new crops would mostly be ones that require less water.
Moreover, farmers with access to irrigation who went ahead with paddy crops are complaining of high input costs.
Farmer Darshan Singh of Haryana’s Bagthala village runs his deep tubewell pump on a diesel generator due to frequent outages. “It costs me about Rs 150 per hour to irrigate just three acres of paddy.”
Deficient rainfall has forced farmers in Uttar Pradesh to opt for jawar, bajra and pulses instead of paddy.
(With inputs from Rajesh Kumar Singh in Lucknow)