Patna, Aug. 8: Monsoon rainfall deficiency across the state over the past few weeks has triggered a common perception of drought-like situation but the figures related to agriculture activities dispel the notion.
The overall rainfall deficiency in the state as on Friday was 29 per cent. But the overall kharif paddy transplantation coverage today stood at 66.07 per cent of the target coverage area, around 10 per cent more than last year (57. 28 per cent till August 8, 2013).
Thanks to the cultivation figures, the state disaster management department is in no hurry to send a formal proposal to the state cabinet for the declaration of drought. The department’s principal secretary, Vyasji, told The Telegraph: “We are in wait-and-watch mode at present. Normally, drought is declared after the period of transplantation (June 25- August 15) is over.”¯
Last year, the state government had declared drought in 33 districts on September 18.
Vyasji said: “We have strengthened our capacity to provide water in the fields through irrigation. As of now, we are providing water to an area of 8 lakh hectares through canals and 2 lakh hectares through tubewells. Efforts are being made to increase the coverage area for paddy transplantation and extend subsidy to farmers, where needed.”¯
Agriculture experts, however, claimed that the situation was still alarming. “The paddy transplantation has been higher in north Bihar than south Bihar. Also, many farmers went for early transplantation following the absence of pre-monsoon rain. If the rainfall deficiency remains around 30 per cent during the peak transplantation period between mid-July and mid-August, then it will be definitely alarming. The soil where transplantation has been done is now getting dry. Thus, rain is crucial this fortnight,” said Anil Jha, an expert in the agriculture department.
Ashish Sen, the director of Patna Meteorological Centre, said there was possibility of only light to moderate rain, particularly in north and central Bihar, next week. It would continue up to August 15.
According to figures with the India Meteorological Department (IMD), as many as 23 out of 38 districts fulfil the criteria of facing meteorological drought, which is declared when the rainfall deficiency at a place is 30 per cent or more.
The deficient rainfall figures triggered a lot of hue and cry of late with regard to declaration of drought. The BJP yesterday threatened an agitation if the state government failed to declare 28 districts drought-hit within 10 days. Former chief minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday hinted the government would declare drought because of 28 per cent deficit rainfall.
There was a difference of opinion on the assessment of the drought condition between chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi and agriculture minister Narendra Singh in the Assembly last month. Manjhi was largely not content with the report of district magistrates on the drought situation, while Narendra had said the rainfall deficiency and transplantation of kharif paddy saplings figures did not fulfil the government criteria for declaring drought.
The state has received 417.1mm of rainfall between June 1 and August 8 against the expected 585.8mm — a deficiency of 29 per cent. Also, normal or 10 per cent less than normal rainfall has been forecast for August.
In case drought is declared, the state government would send a memorandum to the Centre seeking financial assistance. Prior to extending the requested financial support, the Centre normally sends a team of experts to the state to assess the situation.
Bihar had declared drought last year and in 2010.