Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vidarbha Agrarian Crisis-Drought update -Time of India

Stress levels rise in the suicide belt


Ramu Bhagwat | TNN

Yavatmal: Nature has once again turned against Vidarbha, the most backward region of Maharashtra, where an overwhelming majority of farmers depend on rain gods.
The standing crop of cotton, soyabean and jowar in some three million hectares is fast wilting as the region has received little or no rain in the last three weeks. Paddy cultivation has also been severely hit in eastern parts of the region.
A dry spell in the middle of the kharif season has left farmers despondent. The jowar crop is already lost, soyabean has suffered 60% damage and even the cotton crop is facing the heat.
The region’s main farming season had a faltering start as monsoon arrived late almost by a month. But once it started raining from June-end farmers ex
pected the season to proceed smoothly. By early July sowing operations were complete. Even in the beginning of July it rained well and the seeds germinated, giving the fields a lush green look . It was not to last. The rain stopped as suddenly as it began. Now, the prolonged dry spell has left the standing crop high and dry. With irrigation facilities abysmally poor in these parts, the dependence on rain is total. The situation is worse in Yavatmal district, the epicentre of farmers suicide crisis. “We are staring at an unprecedented drought. The water level in major dams has come down to 34% while the reservoirs and catchment areas have dried up,” said social activist Vilas Wankhede. His worst fear is that the drought will now lead to a spurt in crime. “Incidents of robberies, thefts and house-breaking are on the rise in this otherwise peaceful city. In some cases the involvement of rural youths has surfaced,” added Wankhede.
“The farmers are having sleepless nights as they have no fodder or water for the cattle. Distress sale of cattle has begun. At the Sunday weekly market at Pandharkawda 450 cows and 200 buffaloes were brought and were being sold at throwaway prices,” said Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti.

VIJAY TIWARI Land Holding | 30 acres Side Business | None Family Size | 12 members Income | Rs 2 lakh PA
Bhandara: Vijay Tiwari, a large-scale farmer of Tudka village, is a worried man. His first paddy crop has been completely destroyed due to scanty rains. Now, he is going in for a second sowing in spite of the fact that it has not rained in the area in the
last 15 days.
By the villagers’ standards, Tiwari is a ‘rich’ man. He and his two brothers own 30 acres of land in an area where most families have holdings that are only four to five acres.
However, this year the rain gods have Tiwari as worried as his less affluent neighbours. Tiwari told TOI that he had already lost Rs 20,000 in the first sowing. “When the rains stopped I used the water from my tank to keep the saplings alive but then the tank dried up. I then started drawing water from the nearby stream. Now, the stream too is drying up and if it does not rain in another four to five days, thousands will go down the tube again. And I can’t afford that.”

DIPAK KATRE Land Holding | 15 acres Side Business | None Family Size | 9 members Income | Rs 1.10 lakh PA
Nagpur: Dipak Katre doesn’t know if he took the right decision. Due to scanty rainfall he delayed the sowing of paddy, unlike most farmers of Gondia district who started sowing in late June or early July. Then, some 20 days ago, it rained cats and dogs and
he decided to go for it. However, the next day it did not rain at all and he changed his mind. He decided that he would sow when it rained regularly. However, it never did. He finally decided to use groundwater for sowing.
The farmer fervently hopes that it rains in a few days or he would lose all his money. “This year we are witnessing the worst drought. Even our grandfathers don’t remember such a catastrophe,” he says.
Katre said the government had decided to not provide the three-phase power supply needed for farm pumps if it does not rain till August 15. “They say water will have to be conserved for drinking till July next year. But I will be ruined.” ASHISH ROY

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