Wednesday, Oct 05, 2022

Jharkhand Farmers Worried About Low Sowing Coverage Amid Drought-Like Situation

Chief Minister Hemant Soren, during his Independence Day speech on August 15, had said there were reports of “below normal rainfall in the Kharif season” and his government was continuously monitoring the situation. 

 Deficient rains threaten Kharif crop production in UP
Deficient rains threaten Kharif crop production in Jharkhand PTI

Bhupati Bhusan Mahto, a 64-year-old farmer in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district, is worried about his farming as more than 90 per cent of his paddy field remains uncultivated, with a drought-like situation prevailing in the state. 

Mahto, a resident of Dhokra village, claimed that an input cost of Rs 4,000 for the paddy cultivation has drained as his fields mostly remained dry, and he incurred a huge loss.  

“My family is dependent only on agriculture. I bought fertilisers, seeds and other inputs to grow paddy on my six acres of land but I was not able to sow seeds due to scanty rainfall. All efforts and money have gone in vain. 

“Sowing season for paddy is already over and I am struggling to make both ends meet. Family expenses and managing fodder for my cattle are going to be challenging tasks for me this year. I do not know, how I could feed my sons and wife,” he told PTI.

Mahto is not alone. Gopal Chandra, 46, another farmer in the Baliapur block of the district, is also in distress. “Since actual sowing season has ended on August 15, there is hardly any chance of getting yield. I went for sowing only to get fodder for my cattle, as managing fodder for cattle in drought situation is not going to be easy,” he said.

Chandra requested the government to declare drought as soon as possible and provide relief to them. Kanchan Kumar Mahto, a 28-year-old farmer from Amlachater village in Jamtara district, told PTI, “We are in big trouble, as all our labour for the Kharif season went in vain. We can manage at least food for ourselves but we are concerned about our cattle. We don’t have even fodder. Now, farmers can only survive if the government extends a helping hand.” 

Mahto lives in a joint family of eight members and they had planned to grow paddy on 10 acres of land this Kharif season. “We started preparations in initial months and spent around Rs 2,000 on seeds, fertiliser and others. Since there was no rain in the district during the sowing period, our farmland remained fallow this year. In the last week’s rain, we raised some paddy on a part of our fields to get fodder for the animal,” he said.

The situation is "grim in 12 districts" of the state, where paddy sowing coverage is less than 10 per cent till August 17. However, a widespread rain in the second week of August offered farmers some respite across the state, and Dhanbad’s Mahto was able to grow paddy on one acre of his land but the sowing coverage, according to him, was not satisfactory. 

Jharkhand received widespread rainfall since August 9 due to two back-to-back low-pressure systems. It helped reduce the state’s rainfall deficit from 48 per cent recorded on August 9 to 36 per cent on Wednesday but no improvement in sowing coverage was witnessed.

Sowing coverage is still bad across Jharkhand due to scanty rainfall in the first two months of the monsoon, an official said. The state has recorded a mere 30.60 per cent paddy sowing coverage till August 17, he said, citing a report of the state agriculture department. “State’s overall sowing coverage including paddy, maize, pulse, oilseed and coarse cereals was recorded at 37.63 per cent,” the official said. 

Agriculture experts stated that farmers are in a “deep crisis across Jharkhand and the situation is worst in 12 districts where paddy coverage is less than 10 per cent, which would impact more than 15 lakh farmers”. The worst-affected districts are Dumka (0.68 per cent), Dhanbad (1.09), Jamtara (3.66), Garhwa (4.38), Palamu (4.91), Deoghar (9.39), Godda (5.20), Hazaribag (7.03), Pakur (7.39), Latehar (8.65), Giridih (8.26) and Chatra (9.38).

Jamtara’s Mahto said he tried to get enrolled under the government’s crop relief scheme but “the process is not so easy that a farmer could understand”.

Birsa Agricultural University Director Research and Dean of Faculty of Agriculture SK Pal told PTI, “Now paddy seeds with a long duration harvest will not work. It may not yield desired results. Farmers could go for direct sowing of short-duration seeds till the end of August. However, the main concern is that cultivators have already incurred losses and they might struggle for fresh buying of new seeds.” 

Even though the government provides a 50 per cent subsidy on seeds, many farmers are “not in a position to bear the cost of new seeds”. Pal suggested that instead of paddy, farmers could focus on sowing ragi and kulthi crops, which might compensate for their loss. 

“In October, they could go for early mustard and wheat sowing,” he advised. Jharkhand agriculture department officials said the administration is concerned over the drought-like situation and has already initiated several programmes. Chief Minister Hemant Soren, during his Independence Day speech on August 15, had said there were reports of “below normal rainfall in the Kharif season” and his government was continuously monitoring the situation. 

“In view of the current situation, we have demanded a special package from the Centre,” he had said. Keeping in mind the farmers’ plight, the government is running a crop relief scheme, and Rs 100 crore is being allocated to deal with the situation, he said. 

“In order to provide financial assistance to farmers, more than 4.28 lakh Kisan Credit Card applications have been approved and Rs 1,583 crore has been sanctioned. Integrated Birsa Gramin Vikas Yojana-cum-Krishak Pathshala has been started to train the farmers. Quality seeds are being provided at 50 per cent subsidy,” the CM said.

Meanwhile, two scientists from Birsa Agriculture University have left for Delhi to participate in a meeting on the drought situation, convened by the Centre on Thursday. “The scientists will present Jharkhand’s situation,” state agriculture director Nisha Oraon Singhmar said.

(With PTI inputs)