Farmer groups in Maharashtra demand declaration of drought; deficient monsoon rainfall a concern in Peninsular India
While several states in north India are reeling under massive floods, in Peninsular India farmers are staring at drought conditions due to deficient monsoon rainfall. Situation might worsen in the coming month due to El Niño, warns spokesperson of Skymet Weather.
Aishwarya Tripathi 18 July 2023 1:54 PM GMT
Farmer organisations in Maharashtra are gearing up for a statewide demonstration next week on July 26 to bring to attention the growing agrarian crisis in the state due to deficient rainfall this monsoon season. Among other things, they are demanding declaration of drought because of low kharif sowing.
“We are planning to huddle up with other farmers’ organisations in Mumbai on July 24 to plan a statewide demonstration two days later on July 26, considering the agrarian crisis due to poor rainfall,” Rajan Kshirsagar, General Secretary of Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, told Gaon Connection.
“The soybean farmers in Marathwada have not been able to sow their crops due to insufficient rainfall. How can the government declare that 80 per cent of kharif sowing is done in Maharashtra,” asked the farmer leader, who is based in Parbhani.
Kshirsagar was referring to state deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s statements on July 17, the first day of the Monsoon Session of the state assembly where he said that despite scanty rainfall, 80 per cent of sowing had taken place compared to last year in the kharif season.
But farmers in the state are worried as sowing of their kharif crops is affected due to below normal rainfall.
According to India Meteorological Department (IMD), of the 36 districts in Maharashtra, 18 districts have reported ‘deficient’ rainfall ( minus 59 to minus 20 per cent), and two districts — Sangli and Hingoli — have recorded ‘large deficient’ rainfall (minus 99 per cent and minus 60 per cent), between the period of July 1 and July 18 in this southwest monsoon season.
Within the state, Madhya Maharashtra and Marathwada regions have reported a rainfall departure of minus 28 per cent and minus 26 per cent, respectively. Both fall in the deficient rainfall category.
“The government is hesitant to acknowledge that this is a drought because it holds them accountable to provide crop insurance to the farmers,” said Kshirsagar. “We demand the government declare a drought and provide compensation to the farmers who couldn’t sow their crops because of no rainfall,” he added.
Last month, Gaon Connection did two ground reports from Maharashtra documenting woes of farmers who were unable to sow kharif crops due to no/ low rainfall. Those who had already sown seeds, were staring at sowing failure.
Parched Peninsular India
Deficient rainfall in the monsoon season is not limited to Maharashtra alone. Several other states in Peninsular India and also in eastern India are awaiting monsoon rains. This is in sharp contrast to north India where Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi and parts of Uttar Pradesh are rain-battered and facing massive floods.
According to IMD, North Interior Karnataka and South Interior Karnataka meteorological subdivisions have a rainfall departure of minus 32 and minus 35 per cent, respectively.
Predictably, sharing of Cauvery’s water between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also hit the news headlines. As per the news reports, Karnataka has declared that the state is not in a position to release Cauvery water to the neighbouring downstream state of Tamil Nadu due to the water deficit plaguing Karnataka.
“Tamil Nadu has been demanding to release Cauvery water and has even appealed to the Cauvery Monitoring Committee. But, we are not in a position to release water. A decision will be taken after holding discussion with the chief minister and water resources minister,” state agriculture minister N Cheluvarayaswamy was quoted in local news reports.
"Tamil Nadu has been demanding its share of water at a time Karnataka is facing shortage of drinking water. The situation will ease only if there is good rain this month," the agriculture minister added.
Meanwhile, Rayalaseema in Telangana also has a rainfall deficit of minus 33 per cent in this southwest monsoon so far. Kerala has a rainfall departure of minus 38 per cent (Check map).
There is trouble brewing in states in eastern India too. As of today, July 18, the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and Gangetic West Bengal have reported a cumulative rainfall departure of minus 36 per cent, minus 42 per cent, and minus 36 per cent, respectively.
Paddy sowing and transplantation in Bihar is way below the target as 31 of its 38 districts are rain-deficient.
Also Read: Floods in Punjab, Haryana and UP, but farmers in Bihar stare at drought conditions; paddy sowing affected
Prepare for Drought?
Talking to Gaon Connection about the rain-deficit in several states in peninsular India, Mahesh Palawat, vice president of meteorology and climate change at private weather forecast website Skymet Weather, informed that Marathwada,Vidarbha, Madhya Maharashtra, Interior Karnataka, Rayalaseema, and Telangana are experiencing a rainfall deficit and the situation will only worsen.
“A low significant weather system has developed over the Bay of Bengal resulting in the rain deficit. This year, the weather system developed in the northern Bay of Bengal which gave rainfall in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh regions. In the coming days, we might see heavy showers over coastal Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. But Tamil Nadu, Rayalaseema, interior Karnataka will remain in a rain deficit,” he explained.
“Moreover El Niño will set in August and the monsoon rainfall will further deplete. We might see good rain in the next two days in Marathwada and Madhya Maharashtra. But El Niño hitting soon will decrease the monsoon rain throughout the country so the states should be prepared,” he concluded.
El Niño refers to a warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It is often linked to low monsoon rainfall in the Indian subcontinent.
Also Read: Ramesh Jagtap may have to drop his daughter’s wedding plan this Diwali. He blames the monsoon for it.
Farmer groups are demanding action from the government. Yesterday, on July 17, Maharashtra Rajya Kisaan Sabha shot off a letter addressed to Maharashtra Chief Minister, Speaker of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, and District Magistrate of Parbhani asking to immediately declare drought in the state and come up with a contingency plan for the drought situation in the state.
The letter expressed that due to no rainfall in June, the sowing of kharif crops was not possible for the farmers. Moreover, due to scarce or no rainfall till July 15, the farmers face the problem of double sowing their crops.
On the first day of the Monsoon Assembly Session, Fadnavis had said, “Maharashtra has formed a contingency plan because of the delayed monsoon. The state is ready for situations like double sowing, crop failure, and spurious seed supply that would affect production. The plan is in place.”
But Kshirsagar reiterated that “the state government needs to prepare a contingency plan specific to Maharashtra, and not merely accept suggestions from the Union Government”.