In the last few years, this country has not been showered with much-needed rain relief. The El Nino effect that creates global heat has caused India to face more than three dismal monsoons in a row. And yet, policy-makers have not learned from the mistakes of their glorified past. In 2016, more than one fourth of the nation is facing a severe drought crisis with 330 million people directly affected by it. It is termed by some as the worst drought in decades.
The Rajya Sabha declared 266 districts in 11 different states to be drought affected in their session last week. These cracks are not just visible on land. Social systems, public belief, political one-upmanship and the regional economy are also bursting at their seams. With people attributing it to the weather and climate change, many believe that the government’s apathy towards its poor and marginalised is to be blamed. Parliament discussions also revealed how nine farmers committed suicide everyday in Maharashtra in 2015.
The severity of the crisis was reflected in the statements of Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who urged PM Modi to declare a National Emergency on drought. According to him, there has been an increase in child labour, child marriages, trafficking, exploitation. Even the Devadasi system has made a come-back. All of this can be attributed to the dire consequences of the drought affected regions, as per Satyarthi.
It is not just the fact that major reservoirs in India are 79% empty, grain production is also said to be at an all time low. It will take more than emergency trains to Latur, selfies at drought afflicted areas, shifting of IPL matches and transferring life saving water to sugarcane factories to tackle the mess we find ourselves in. Close to Rs 13500 crore has been released by the National Disaster Relief Fund for these areas.
The 11 states that have declared drought in major parts of their districts are Chattisgarh, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Most of these states paint a grim picture with their statistics and the population residing in these areas are fighting tooth and nail for their survival.
93% districts of Chhattisgarh & Karnataka have been affected by drought followed by Jharkhand with 92% districts. Odisha which is seeing the worst temperature in a century according the special relief commissioner has 90% drought affected districts, the same as Madhya Pradesh.
Maharashtra has 78% drought affected districts. 273 farmers have committed suicide in the Marathwada region in 2015 and 59 farmers this year. Beed region announced its highest number of farmer suicides this year. 12,000 villages in Vidarbha region have declared drought and the environment in Latur is so bad that the administration has deployed a police force to stop more than five people from assembling at the well in case of a violent outburst.
Andhra Pradesh has 77% and the recently formed state of Telangana has 70% drought affected districts. 2100 farmers have committed suicide since 2014 in Telangana due to abysmal rainfall in the last three years.
In Uttar Pradesh, 2/3rds of the area is drought affected. Rajasthan, the state that has always faced water crisis is dealing with it again with 58% of the districts declaring drought. Gujarat has the lowest percentage (15%) of drought affected districts out of all the states.
Many people from these areas have migrated to cities to find a source of livelihood and a tap of running water. If decisions are not taken with a collective conscience, most of the burden of this calamity will fall on urban structures. Structures that are mired in their own problems, thus making them ill equipped to handle the entire nation’s drought crisis. As El Nino fades out and La Nina saunters in, there might be some good news for the country as an above average rainfall has been predicted for 2016.
Feature Image Courtesy: Sustainability next