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Will drought haunt Bihar farmers again?

Patna, July 7 (IANS) It’s a different year, but little has changed. Farmers in many Bihar districts are a worried lot as scanty monsoon rains have badly affected paddy sowing and triggered fears of a drought – just like last year.

Maheshwar Singh, a farmer in Aurangabad district, fears he will not be able to complete paddy sowing owing to parched farms. ‘We are facing a lot of problems because it’s not raining. Cracks have developed in the land. Only the rain god can save us,’ he said.

Suhail Khan, a farmer in Gaya district, said there was fear that their paddy seeds would become dry if it didn’t rain soon. ‘We are praying for rain to save our livelihood,’ Khan said.

Singh and Khan are two of the thousands of paddy and maize farmers in the districts of Gaya, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Arwal, Nawada and parts of Patna who are worried and helpless as lack of rains have triggered fears that they may face another drought.

‘These districts may be headed for another drought,’ Bhagwan Bhaskar, a Left activist said.

To make matters worse, farmers are complaining that there is no water in the canals for irrigation. A large part of central Bihar is irrigated by water from Sone river and regulated through canals.

Monsoon normally hits the state between June 12 to June 14. While the rains have begun, they have been scanty.

The state has received 134.4 mm of rainfall against its requirement of 202.8 mm. The districts of Gaya, Aurangabad, Arwal, Jehanabad and parts of Patna have received nearly 33 mm of rainfall against 95 mm till date.

Official sources said paddy sowing was badly hit in the 26 districts declared drought-hit by the state government last year following poor rains.

According to the meteorological office, Bihar has recorded a rainfall deficit of 34 percent so far. ‘A bad sign for the state and particularly for districts that faced drought last year,’ an official said.

Last year, the state government declared 26 districts, including Gaya, Aurangabad, Jehanabad, Arwal and Nawada, drought hit following a rainfall deficit of 29 percent.

The state government has asked officials to re-work strategies to tackle the situation. ‘The officials of various concerned departments have been busy holding meetings to finalise a strategy to tackle the situation,’ state Agriculture Minister Renu Kumari said.

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