’s food bowl empty, cup of woes full India
This is a dark cloud without any silver lining. The monsoon winds that send hearts and minds soaring throughout the country — and particularly in the food bowl of north India — have this year been dry, desert-like, leaving countless prayers shot upward, unanswered.
J S Sangha, general secretary of Jalandhar Potato Growers Association is depressed. ‘‘I have lost money heavily on diesel to run generators for tubewells,’’ he says. His fuel bill has crossed Rs 75,000 for sowing his 50 acre farm. Indeed, depression is the prevalent mood everywhere, from Punjab and Haryana to Uttar Pradesh and
‘‘States that promised power on trading basis are unable to do so since their own domestic requirements have shot up while our power bill on paddy, which was Rs 2,200 crore last year, would spiral due to deficient rains,’’ said a senior power department official. In UP, there’s a drought-like situation in 40 out of 71 districts with 57% sub-normal rains so far. Average shower per district has been only 96mm as against 225.6mm normal. Worse, chances of monsoon revival are bleak. Around 60 lakh hectare (ha) land was earmarked for paddy in UP this year but only 52 lakh ha have been sown.
If rains elude the rest of July, the paddy yield may drop by 30% to 40%.
Around 70% farmland in UP is being irrigated through tube-wells and canals but agriculture scientists say that artificial irrigation can’t compensate for the natural conditions. The farmers have been asked by the state government to sow coarse grains like pulses, jwaar, bajra, makka, mustard which need less water. Free seeds are being distributed. But despite these measures, production of coarse grain is expected to be only around 240 lakh tonne as against a requirement of 254 lakh tonne.
For example, sugarcane is a major cash crop. Scant rainfall has resulted in increase of input cost by Rs 12-18 per quintal. A day’s rent on generator is Rs 800 and around Rs 2,800 is spent on diesel to irrigate one hectare of land which produces around 600 quintal of cane. This means Rs 6 per quintal on irrigation and a farmer has to irrigate land three times in June. Even the N-E, which boasts of being among the wettest places on earth, has witnessed the highest rainfall deficiency in 30 years: Nagaland is deficient by 67%,
Normatively, paddy is cultivated in around 35 lakh ha in
ready yet, field reports suggest paddy sowing has been done on less than 25% of the area earmarked for paddy cultivation as there is no water in the fields. Bihar farmers, unlike their counterparts in
(With inputs from Ashish Tripathi in