Inviting disaster

Maharashtra is facing a serious drought situation with the failure of the kharif crop and a severe shortage of drinking water in large areas of the state. It was deficiency of the monsoon for a  second consecutive year that has caused the present situation. Half the districts in the state are reeling under drought.

Parts of some other states, including Karnataka, have also been hit though the situation there is not as bad as in Maharashtra. The state has cut down its growth rate by over 2 per cent  because of the expected fall in agricultural production. Its major crop, sugarcane, may see a 33 per cent fall in production and this is bound to have implications at the national level. Since agriculture is hit, allied sectors will also suffer.

But statistics cannot fully measure the impact of droughts which are veritable human tragedies. Unfortunately when they occur they do not get enough attention also because its victims are mostly in villages. By the time it is talked about, large numbers of people would have lost their life’s earnings and would be looking into an uncertain future. It cannot also be disputed that most droughts are manmade. The same is the case with the present situation in Maharashtra too. The monsoon failure did not occur overnight. There were advance warnings and  there was time for the government to take measures to prevent the rain deficiency from turning into a drought situation.  Thousands of crores of rupees has been spent in Maharashtra on irrigation in the past 10 years but the actual irrigated area has increased only by 0.1 per cent. Much the same thing also might happen to the hundreds of crores which are now being spent to mitigate the hardships of drought.

Villages have run out of water and drinking water is a luxury. Reports have said that the supply of water by tankers remains a promise in many places. Food and fodder have run out and people do not have the money to purchase basic necessities. People have started migrating to cities. Amidst all this there are those who love the drought because there is a business opportunity in it. There was also the report of a claimed spiritual leader wasting huge quantity of water for Holi, when almost half the state was going thirsty. A drought means many things to many people.

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