Centre, Bihar take stock as state edges towards drought

Last year, no steps were taken by the central government despite drought being declared in Bihar and Jharkhand

File photo: Umesh Kumar Ray
File photo: Umesh Kumar Ray

A high-level meeting was held in Patna on June 28, 2023, by officials from the Centre and Bihar to take stock of the state’s drought-like situation which has not ended though the southwest monsoon arrived on June 13.

Central officials, who arrived in Patna from Delhi for the meeting, asked state officials to follow the guidelines issued by the Centre to deal with drought.

According to a press release issued by the government, the meeting was co-chaired by Shubha Thakur, Joint Secretary (Crops and Oilseeds) in the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary (Agriculture), Government of Bihar.

The meeting reviewed the implementation of various central schemes for kharif sowing and agriculture besides preparing to tackle drought in Bihar.

Apart from this, all centrally sponsored schemes were also reviewed in detail in the presence of the state’s nodal officers.

Bihar officials, who attended the meeting, said plans are being made in accordance with the directions received by the central government to prepare for drought.

Agarwal said subsidies for diesel and seeds will be announced if needed. A contingency crop scheme is underway to ensure seed supply in Bihar. The Bihar State Seed Corporation has already floated an advance tender of 41,000 quintals of seeds for 15 types of crops.

Provision of climate-resilient agriculture is being promoted through Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KGV) and the state extension wing. The state’s power department has also ensured uninterrupted electricity for 18-20 hours in rural areas to facilitate irrigation. Apart from this, a detailed drought prevention plan has been prepared by district agriculture officers.

Agarwal said the State Level Sanctioning Committee of Bihar is scheduled to meet on June 30. The state government assured that it will focus on crop diversification, especially in south Bihar, and promote crops like maize and millet.

Thakur said geo-referencing should be made mandatory by the state for all components of central schemes, such as agricultural equipment, seed production, input distribution, etc.

She emphasised that the state government should hold meetings with institutes like the Indian Agricultural Research Institute and KGVs to ensure better coordination between departments. Also, the participation of self-help group members should be increased.

Last year, no steps were taken by the central government despite drought being declared in Bihar and Jharkhand.

This year, the weather phenomenon El Nino will have an impact on India. The possibility of agrarian distress worsening this year, just before the general elections in 2024, will be a matter of concern for the central government. 

The Union Finance Ministry had expressed the possibility of losses due to El Nino in February  itself.

Not much rain yet

Bihar received 47.5 millimetres (mm) of rainfall from June 1-29 as against the normal rainfall of 151.1 mm, India Meteorological Department (IMD) data showed. That is, the state has received 69 per cent deficient rainfall.

Of the 38 districts in the state, two have received normal rainfall, six have been categorised as ‘Deficient’ and 30 as large-deficient by the IMD.

The worst situation is in Muzaffarpur, Vaishali and Saran districts. Muzaffarpur has received 99 per cent less rainfall than normal, while Vaishali received 93 per cent less rainfall than normal and Saran 97 per cent less rainfall than normal.

Apart from this, Aurangabad has received 86 per cent less rainfall than normal, Begusarai 87 per cent, Samastipur 91 per cent and Siwan 91 per cent less.

However, the state received 9.6 mm rainfall between 8 am on June 27 and 8 am on June 28. Araria, Banka, Bhagalpur, Khagaria, Munger and Supaul received much above normal rainfall (more than 60 per cent) in these 24 hours.

A local IMD representative said widespread rainfall is expected in Bihar during the next few days.

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