The Bihar government on Monday declared 26 of the state’s 38 districts as drought-affected and sought Rs 10,152 crore from the Centre for relief operations for an estimated 8.30 crore (83 million) people.
Bihar had faced a drought of this magnitude 41 years ago in 1967.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “Nearly 1.26 crore (12.6 million) families in the 26 districts have been affected by the drought. The state government has estimated that an average family comprises of five members and they would need relief.”
Kumar appealed to the Prime Minister to immediately send a team of Central ministers for an assessment of the situation while asking for a special financial package for the state.
In stark contrast to the drought-affected districts, four districts—Sitamarhi, Muzaff-arpur, West Champaran and Darbhanga—are reeling under floods in which nearly 18 lakh (1.83 million)people have been affected.
Though the breach in the Sitamarhi embankment of the Bagmati river has been plugged, nearly 40 blocks of Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur are still inundated. Muzaffarpur district magistrate Vipin Kumar said, “Many people have returned home, but thousands are still living in makeshift hutments.”
The state government has released Rs 100 crore (1 billion) from the State Contingency Fund to deal with the drought and directed all district magistrates to ensure that nobody dies of starvation.
Disaster Management Department officials said that between June 1 and August 6, Bihar received just 331.7 mm of rainfall against the normal of 568.5 mm, a deficiency of 42 per cent. This resulted in a rise in average temperatures by 5 to 7 degrees above normal. It also resulted in a 58 per cent decline in paddy transplantation against the targeted 87,722,41 acres.
Pulses, another major crop of the state, could be planted in just 1,41,156 acres of land against the target of 3,08,881 acres, while oilseeds could be planted in 14,287 acres against the target of 49,421 acres.
The state government has initiated a number of steps including formation of a Crisis Management Group under the Chief Secretary’s leadership to hold a daily review of contingency measures while district level task forces are reviewing the situation on a weekly basis.