While large parts of the country reel under floods, drought like conditions stare farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand

India as a whole has received 11 per cent above normal rainfall in the southwest monsoon season, so far. But Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have received deficient rainfall. Millions of farmers in these states are bracing up for huge losses of their kharif paddy crops. Good rains are forecast in the coming few days but will that be enough? A ground report.

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While large parts of the country reel under floods, drought like conditions stare farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand

Monsoon rains have eluded the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, leaving the farmers in considerable distress. Photo by Rahul Kumar

Uttar Pradesh/ Bihar/ Jharkhand

Salik Ram has lived through 56 monsoons but never before in his life has he been so confused about the rainy season. While he watched on television the visuals of severe floods in other parts of the country due to heavy monsoon rains, not a drop of rain has fallen on his five bigha (almost a hectare) land in Shivdeen Khera village in Uttar Pradesh.

इस खबर को हिन्दी में पढ़ें

"Ashaadh (mid-June to mid-July) and saawan (mid-July to mid-August) are the months when it rains heavily and paddy farmers like me rejoice at the sight of dark clouds gathering overhead. But can you spot a single cloud in the sky? It's as if it is April-May," the 56-year-old farmer, whose village falls in Unnao district's Asoha block, told Gaon Connection.

Also Read: Rising heat, sinking groundwater and violent conflicts over irrigation in UP. A ground report

"We are two weeks into July and there has been no rain. If these hot and dry conditions prevail any longer, my crops will not survive, and I will be ruined," Ram worried. He has already sown paddy on three bighas of land, while saplings of makka (maize), urad (black grams) and moong (green grams) await the rains before being planted in the remaining portions of his five bigha land.

Salik Ram, the farmer from Uttar Pradesh's Unnao. Photo by Sumit Yadav

Monsoon rains have eluded the states of Bihar and Jharkhand too leaving the farmers there in considerable distress.

"The water levels are too low for the pumps to suck water from underground. Even the electricity supply (for operating tubewells) is erratic. My hopes are pinned on the rains, and if they are any further delayed, I will have to sustain heavy losses," Shubhranshu Pandey, a 47-year-old farmer from Bihar's Sheohar district said. He has sown paddy on his ten bighas of land in Babhan Toli village.

In the neighbouring state of Jharkhand, Sonu Sanga, a paddy farmer from Jalsanda village of Khunti district, is almost certain that his dhaan crop on an acre of land will fail this year due to the lack of rainfall.

"The government provides a relief amount after crop loss, but it hardly compensates for what we lose. We are dependent on the monsoon, and this year, the losses are poised to be brutal," Sanga, a marginal farmer added.

Also Read: Ground Report: Worst floods in 122 years; over 4 million affected in the second wave of floods in north-east Bangladesh

While large parts of the country, from Assam in northeast to Rajasthan and Gujarat in west India, and several states in peninsular India are facing floods due to extremely heavy rainfall, farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand are staring at drought conditions. They have already sown their kharif crops, mostly paddy, but the lack of rains is threatening to destroy the saplings.

The country receives nearly 80 per cent of the annual rainfall during the summer monsoon season, which has a vital socio-economic security link. Photo by Virendra Singh

A quick look at the monsoon rainfall data on India Meteorological Department's (IMD) shows why millions of farmers in these three states in the Indo-Gangetic belt are a worried lot.

Between June 1 and July 13, during the south west monsoon, Uttar Pradesh has registered a rainfall departure of minus 62 per cent. It is the only state in the country to have reported 'large deficient rainfall'.

In the same time period, Jharkhand has had deficient rainfall of minus 49 per cent, and Bihar, minus 38 per cent.

"The paddy production in the state will be severely affected if it doesn't rain within a week," Manoj Kumar, agriculture scientist at a Raghopur-based krishi vigyan kendra in Bihar's Vaishali district told Gaon Connection.

"Farmers, especially in southern Bihar, have already sown their paddy saplings, which are drying up. All hopes are placed on rainfall within a week's time," he said. But, Kumar was hopeful that it would rain soon.

Also Read: Assam floods: No respite from heavy rains, residents astonished as usually soothing 'Bordoisilla' turns destructive

When floods and drought coexist

The southwest monsoon season in India is for four months – June to September. The country receives nearly 80 per cent of the annual rainfall during the summer monsoon season, which has a vital socio-economic security link.

This year, several states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Assam, Meghalaya, etc, have reported excess or large excess rainfall. However, a handful of states are facing an acute lack of monsoon rainfall that is threatening to destroy the kharif sowing.

Source: India Meteorological Department

Till July 13, which is one of the heavy rainfall monsoon months, Uttar Pradesh has received large deficient rainfall of minus 70 per cent. Bihar has reported a rainfall departure of minus 86 per cent this month.

District-wise rainfall data (June 1 to July 13, 2022) in Uttar Pradesh shows some districts have barely received any rainfall. Kaushambi district has reported minus 97 per cent rainfall departure while Banda has registered a deficit by minus 87 per cent, Jalaun stands at minus 89 per cent and Etawah at minus 88 per cent.

"I have spent more than ten thousand rupees on my field so far. I cannot afford to supply water to my field from a tubewell and if it doesn't rain in a few days, all my saplings will dry. They have already begun drying," Ram from Shivdeen Khera village in Unnao (UP) lamented. "My worst fear is that my cattle will die too if my crops fail because there will be no fodder for them to eat," the worried farmer added.

Farmers have sown their paddy saplings which are drying up. All hopes are placed on rainfall within a week's time. Photo by Ramji Mishra

"I'll have no option but to give up on my life in such a case," he trailed off.

Also Read: Pandemic, poverty, recurring floods and human bondage in Bihar

Over 130 kilometres north of Ram's paddy field in Unnao, in Sitapur district, thousands of sugarcane cultivators are worried.

"My sugarcane seedlings are drying despite being watered on eight occasions. The crop is in the initial stage and already my costs of buying seeds and irrigation have exceeded the recoverable losses," Girendra Kumar, a farmer from Sitapur's Lakshmanpur village told Gaon Connection. "I have spent more than seven thousand rupees on it so far. Two bighas of my crop are completely dry and I am trying to save my other two bighas now," he added.

Meanwhile, in Varanasi district farmers are regretting that they even sowed paddy this year. Savitri Devi, a farmer from Jagatpur village in Varanasi told Gaon Connection that her paddy hasn't become strong enough to survive the seedling stage. "I am hoping for the rains to arrive as soon as possible. Only gods can save my crop now," she said.

Many farmers remain in ignorance of the direct seeding technique to save their crop and reduce their losses. For them, it is all eyes to the sky. Photo by Ramji Mishra

Sanga from Jharkhand is calculating his losses and it does not look good. "I have sowed paddy on an acre of land which cost me around Rs 15,000. With the meagre rainfall, after harvest, I will hardly get a return of Rs 10,000 which will mean a loss of Rs 5,000," the farmer from Jalsanda village said. "If the rainfall was adequate, the profit could have reached over Rs 30,000," he added.

Badal Patralekh, Jharkhand's agriculture minister, told Gaon Connection that he was in regular contact with the agriculture experts and weather scientists to discuss the low rainfall this monsoon season.

"They [experts] are hopeful of adequate rainfall within a couple of days. The (agriculture) department is also ready to help farmers by compensating them for their losses if low rainfall results in poor paddy production," the minister said.

'Low pressure in Bay of Bengal deflects the monsoon from the Indo-Gangetic plains'

According to Mahesh Palawat, vice president of meteorology and climate change at the private weather forecasting website SkymetWeather,

"As a consequence of the development of a low pressure area in the Bay of Bengal, rainfall activity is heavy in states like Chhattisgarh and Telangana, but the monsoon trough is not moving northwards where the paddy sowing season is in full bloom and farmers are desperately waiting for the rains," Palawat told Gaon Connection.

"However, by July 18 or 19, this low pressure area in the Bay of Bengal is expected to die down and moderate to heavy rainfall is expected to hit the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana continuously for three to four days," the weather forecaster said.

Madhavan Rajeevan, former secretary in the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, told Gaon Connection that the present drought-like conditions in states like Uttar Pradesh was a temporary phase.

"The present conditions will continue till three-four days after which it is hoped that the northern plains will record heavy rainfall. The entire deficit of rainfall in states like Uttar Pradesh may not be compensated by these rains in the coming days but some improvement is bound to happen," Rajeevan said.

Also Read: Climate change expected to annually cause 250,000 deaths between 2030-2050; WHO lists five priority actions

Daya Shankar Srivastava, an agricultural scientist and incharge head at the Katia-based farm science centre in Sitapur (UP) told Gaon Connection that a delay in the sowing of the paddy crop will delay the rabi [winter crops like wheat] crops too.

"This will cost farmers immensely as most of them, who can afford to irrigate their crops by artificial means, are doing so in order to save their sown paddy from damage. This irrigation is expensive as paddy needs a lot of water to sustain itself in such hot and humid conditions," Srivastava explained.

"This cost of (paddy) irrigation is hard to recover during the sale of the harvested crop. Also, the sown paddy is in a very fragile stage. In hot and humid conditions, if it doesn't rain for long, the risk of infestation by pests grows. This increases the farmers' expense on pesticides and severely affects the yield," the scientist said.

Climate change at play?

The second instalment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II report, titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability stated that climate-related risks to agriculture and food systems in Asia will progressively intensify with the changing climate, with differentiated impacts across the region.

"For instance, in South Asia, extreme climatic conditions are threatening food security, thus agro-based economies like India and Pakistan are the most vulnerable to climate change in this regard," the report released earlier this year said.

"In India, rice production can decrease from 10 per cent to 30 per cent, whereas maize production can decrease from 25 per cent to 70 per cent, assuming a range of temperature increase from 1 degree to 4 degrees Celsius," the report underlined.

It is however difficult to say if such deviations of rainfall away from the plains of India is the new normal, said Madhavan, who is also known as 'Monsoon Man' because of his extensive research on the Indian summer monsoon. "The trend is very much there but if these weather fluctuations are bound to repeat year after year remains to be seen," he added.

Crop diversification needed

"Crop diversification needs to be prioritised. I appeal to the farmers that if they are finding it difficult to sustain paddy in the present conditions, they should not waste their time and resources and move on to the cultivation of crops like pulses and oilseeds," agriculture scientist Srivastava said.

Shravan Kumar, a professor in the Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding in the Varanasi-based Banaras Hindu University suggested that paddy farmers can employ the direct seeding technique to avoid losses.

"If it's been more than 30 days since the sowing of paddy, then the farmer should cut off the top part of the plant and only keep the length of the plant which is usually the length when the field is irrigated. Also, ensure a distance of 10 centimetres between two plants. This can help in minimising the losses," the professor told Gaon Connection.

However, many farmers remain in ignorance of the direct seeding technique to save their crop and reduce their losses. For them, it is all eyes to the sky.

Reported by Sumit Yadav in Unnao (UP), Ramji Mishra in Sitapur (UP), Ankit Singh in Varanasi (UP), Manoj Chaudhary in Ranchi (Jharkhand), Rahul Kumar in Bihar, and Pratyaksh Srivastava in Lucknow (UP).

drought paddy farmers rice rainfall #Jharkhand #Bihar #uttarpradesh 

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