Drought & unprecedented Rains and floods

India has just suffered two successive drought years for only the fourth time in over a century; summer crops are wilting and reservoir water levels are at their lowest in at least a decade for the time of year. The central government in its annual Crisis Management Plan this year pointed out that drought-prone area cover a whopping 77.6% of the country's 329 million hectares.

The ongoing drought in India has been among the most severe in recent memory. Several parts of the country, including the central Deccan plateau and parts of northern India have not had normal rainfall since 2012, many of them in consecutive years. Telangana and Rayalaseema districts have suffered severe drought during the last two years. So far as many as 302 districts have reported severest drought, many more are in the process of declaring drought. There have been unprecedented farmers’ suicides during the last one year, which is a blot on the country’s image; we are unable to provide confidence to our own farmers who stood by our country’s food security.

In Tamilnadu and South Coastal Andhra, there have been severe floods greatly affecting the standing crops. Chennai city has been severely affected, large parts are under inundation. The airport is also under closure. Similarly, my own district Nellore and other districts like Chittoor, Kadapa and Prakasam in AP have also suffered heavy damages because of floods. 

Our state has been a major victim of unseasonal rains and successive cyclones like Laila, Phailin, Nilam, Hudhud, etc each causing unprecedented damage to life and property, particularly to standing crops, poultry and horticulture. Even before a farmer has recovered from the effect of one cyclone, he is submerged by another cyclone. The state governments have not been able to reach out to even one percent of affected farmers. For instance, in the recent Hudhud cyclone, which is a sequel to Phailin, Laila and Neelam cyclones in as many years, as per the official estimate of the State Government damages the state suffered Rs 21 thousand crores and hardly the State and Central Governments together could spend hardly 10% of this amount on relief and rehabilitation so far.  The farmers have been virtually had to fend for themselves.

Our State is yet to make final assessment of losses due to recent floods, as the areas are still receiving huge rains. In the last unseasonal rains, in my state ‘according to official estimates, thirteen deaths were reported from six districts due to unseasonal rains and 11,334 hectares of crop area was damaged. Paddy was damaged in 4,562 hectares, chillies in 2,002 hectares, mango in 1,478 hectares, banana in 550 hectares, vegetables in 630 hectares and other crops like sesamum, cotton and groundnut were also affected.’

All the crop insurance schemes in vogue now have not covered in 15% of the extent of agricultural land under cultivation in the country. Out of 198 million hectares of gross area sown in the country, only an extent of 25.69 million hectares is covered under various insurance schemes. There are complaints that these schemes are not very effective and claim settlement process’ is very cumbersome.

I request the Government of India to appoint a high powered committee to study the effectiveness of various relief and rehabilitation programmes in the country so as to put in place very effective machinery to reach out to the last person affected in these calamities.

As it is, the farmers are under severe pressure with very low MSP for their products and lack of timely procurement for their produce. Despite all tall talks by successive Governments, the relief is not reaching even 10% of affected farmers.

For a country of this size, nothing can be achieved unless the state governments play an important role in provision of relief and rehabilitation. Each state government, especially the coastal states bordering Bay of Bengal must given a separate ‘fund’ for Relief and Rehabilitation by transferring atleast 5% of Union Revenues annually so that genuine relief and rehabilitation can be given to the affected families.

This should not be a problem given that the Finance Ministry has announced that the indirect tax revenues of Government of India grew by a whopping 36% in the first half of the current fiscal, thanks to global commodity and petroleum prices falling during the last year. Even the Commercial banks have to play a proactive role by immediately granting the loan write offs in areas where the farmers are not responsible for the crop losses and for whom the crop insurance is not available.
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