DROUGHTS IN INDIA
The present drought situation the country is undergoing is pretty serious. More than 246 districts in the country have been affected by the malady caused by deficient rainfall. Official apathy is all too apparent in this state of affairs. The leaders of the country seem to be providing a diet of empty assurances to our farmers. The severe drought like conditions are the result of climatic imbalances caused by the failure of the monsoon and the meteorologists link this failure to a phenomenon known as El-Nino Southern Oscillation abbreviated as ENSO. In the light of the present calamity a historical account of the droughts and consequential famines that occurred in India may not be out of place. In recent times there have been no famines mainly because of the availability of a buffer stock of foodgrains, better transportation and storage facilities as well as greatly improved logistics because of application of technology. Over and above the Government of India has adopted Food security as a prime motto. Major famines in recorded history have taken a heavy toll of many millions. There have been in all about 14 major famines in India since the 11th century. Each of them has caused tremendous suffering and depopulated particular regions due to starvation deaths. A few of the famines which left behind death and devastation were
1. The great famine of 1630-32 which affected present day Gujarat and the Deccan
2. The great Bengal famine of 1770
3. The Chalisa famine of 1783-84 which affected much of northern and central India including present day Delhi, Uttar- Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Kashmir and Punjab
4. The Doji bara or the skull famine of 1791-92 which affected the old Hyderabad and the Southern Maratha regions.
5. The Bengal famine of 1943
CAUSES OF DROUGHT:
Traditionally causes of droughts in India have been of three kinds.
1. Meteorological : They are related to climatic conditions and deficiency in rainfall . The deficiency may be for specific divisions or areas and not the country as a whole. The deficiency is measured as a deviation from the mean rainfall over a particular region
2. Hydrological: Surface and ground water depletion and drying up of fresh water bodies such as rivers , lakes and ponds
3. Agricultural: The moisture content of the soil decreases and causes great stress to the crops and eventual failure results in lowering of agricultural productivity.
Human factors are also responsible for this. They are
1. Overfarming: This leads to depletion of soil fertility and nutrients do not get replenished leading to drought like conditions
2. Excessive irrigation: This can lead to loss of water and a falling water table
CONSEQUENCES OF DROUGHT:
Droughts in India are responsible for agricultural, social and economic consequences.
1. Agricultural Consequences: Subsistence farmers are the worst hit their plots of land turn into dust bowls, lower carrying capacity of land results in low crop yield and inability to sustain livestock. Water contamination results from the reduced flow of water.
2. Economic Consequences: Thousands of farmers in India have committed suicide because they have taken huge loans to fund their operations from private moneylenders and are unable to discharge their debt. The sugarcane farmers in Maharashtra and tobacco and rice farmers in Andhra Pradesh have been the worst hit. Power supplies to farms also get affected because of paucity of water. Shortage of food causes malnutrition
3. Social Consequences: In India there have been cases of social unrest amongst the farming community leading to family disputes. Mass migration to urban areas in search of alternative occupation, particularly by the small and marginal farmers.
SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS CAUSED BY DROUGHT
The Government in India has been sensitive to the problems of the farmers who are rendered helpless by such natural calamities.
1. Rainwater harvesting schemes have been introduced especially in the southern parts to help farmers mitigate the crisis, these include both roof water and ground water
2. Tapping river water and building canals for diverting such water to deficit areas, this will also help to tackle the recurring problem of floods. Damming of major rivers and creating reservoir capacity. There are however serious limits to creation of artificial irrigation facilities in the Indian context.
3. Both the Central and the State govts have been open to ideas such as artificial rain through cloud seeding and desalination of seawater given our large marine resources
4. Apart from the abovementioned measures the Govt has been implementing economic remedies to meet the contingencies. More than 70,000 crores worth of agricultural loans have been waived thus providing debt relief to farmers. Welfare programs such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Program (NREGP) have made deep and successful inroads into rural areas.