Posted by Rachit Seth on Tuesday 26 April, 2016 Hits:120
This is the second consecutive year when India is reeling under severe drought. Nearly 40% of India’s population is plagued with a grave agrarian and drinking water crises. Over 33 Crore people in 2,55,000 villages in 10 States of India are reeling under severe drought. If we add States of Bihar, Uttarakhand and Gujarat, which are also facing drought like conditions, India's population affected by agrarian and water crisis is nearly 48.27 Crore in 3,00,000 villages encompassing 300 districts i.e. almost 50% of India's 6,38,000 villages and 688 districts.
Drinking water and irrigation crisis has reached even a larger magnitude. India's 91 biggest reservoirs have only close to 40% of their water storage capacity remaining i.e. 36 bcm (billion cubic metre) out of total capacity of about 158 bcm. Worst are the reservoirs in South and West India. 31 big reservoirs in the South Indian States of Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu have barely 15% of the normal water storage capacity. 27 reservoirs in Maharashtra/Gujarat have barely 18% of the normal water storage capacity. In fact, water capacity in Maharashtra's reservoirs is down to just 3 % of their capacity.
Almost half of India’s GDP comes from rural areas. About 40 per cent of India’s households engage in agriculture and within this group, two-thirds are heavily reliant on it. Food grain producing regions in the country are bearing the brunt. In 2015, the unseasonal rains and hailstorm in several regions had wiped off Rs 10,000 Crore of Rabi crops and this year’s below par monsoon and drought has added to the misery.
Recently, 170 eminent citizens wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing stating that the government's response to the massive drought being faced by large parts of the country "is sadly listless, lacking in both urgency and compassion".
The Supreme Court of India also castigated the Modi Sarkar on the way its dealing with the extreme drought situations in 10 states. It categorically asked the Union Government on “Why it is not declaring the drought as a National Calamity” and “Why this natural calamity could not be brought under the Disaster Management Act to release funds for the welfare of affected families”. While lambasting the apathy of the Modi Sarkar in dealing with the situation, the apex court sought information on the number of people and districts affected by drought, as well as the budgetary allocation for and expenditure of national and state disaster relief funds.
According to the Union Agriculture Minister’s own admission, there is a severe drought like situation in many districts and on an average 90 farmers are committing suicides every week in the year 2016 itself. The shamelessness of the Modi Government is in full display when the Union Agriculture Minister Shri Radha Mohan Singh tries to playdown the effect of this calamity and says that media is exaggerating the situation.
In drought hit Maharashtra alone, 9 farmers commit suicide per day. As many as 3,228 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015, the highest since 2001, according to data tabled in the Rajya Sabha on March 4, 2016–that is almost nine farmers every day. Vidharbha and Marathwada, with 5.7 million farmers, accounted for 83% of all farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 2015.
Rural crisis can be gauged from the fact the agriculture growth rate is down to 0.2% from 3.7% in 2014-15 under UPA government. Even the spate of farmer's suicides has increased to an average of 52 deaths per day.
Resultant effect is large scale migration, farmer's suicides, drinking water rationing, food shortages and a huge rural crisis. Modi Government is, however, completely oblivious to the crisis and has only responded after Supreme Court of India has intervened in the matter and is issuing day-to-day instructions to deal with the drought conditions. This by itself reflects complete abdication of duty by Modi Government.
Rural distress has been accentuated manifold on account of systematic undermining of MGNREGA by Modi government. This can be gauged from the fact that in the year 2015-16, only 1.8% households covered by MGNREGA got 150 days of employment in the 10 drought-hit States. Even for the year 2016-17, Modi government has already reduced the MGNREGA demand by 980 million person days by curtailing the approved labour budget to 2.17 billion person days as against the demand by States of 3.15 billion person days. Apathy of Modi Government to MGNREGA demand is evident from the fact that arrears of Rs.12,230 crore for work done in 2015-16 under MGNREGA have been released in April, 2016.
The consequence of this adversity is massive rural distress. Resultant effect is large scale migration, farmer's suicides, drinking water rationing, food shortages and a huge rural crisis. Modi Government is, however, completely oblivious to the crisis and has only responded after Supreme Court of India has intervened in the matter and is issuing day-to-day instructions to deal with the drought conditions. This by itself reflects complete abdication of duty by Modi Government.
The FCI awaits arrear payments from the Government amounting to Rs 56,114 Crores, leading to a situation where lakhs of tonnes of wheat is lying in stores and warehouses, waiting to be transported and distributed. This has led to a situation where neither the PDS system is being replenished nor are the farmers getting their payments.
In a place where water riots are being prevented by invoking Section 144 and drinking water is being supplied through trains, the concerned Ministers of the State Government (Shri Eknath Khadse) are wasting thousands of liters of water to make their landing helipads dust free and another Minister (Pankaja Munde) is celebrating a Selfie Picnic Outing in the name of inspection visit. Another State President (BS Yedyurappa) is planning to visit draught affected villages in an SUV worth Rs 1 Crore. The highest priority of the central government in a drought situation should be to ensure the creation of millions of additional person-days of work in all affected villages. Instead, the government has not even allocated enough funds this year to sustain the level of employment generated last year – 233 crore person-days according to official data.
At current levels of expenditure per person-day, this would cost well over Rs 50,000 crores. Yet the central government has allocated just Rs 38,500 crores to MGNREGA this year, of which more than Rs 12,000 crores are required to clear pending liabilities. These liabilities, only prove the distress crores of workers have been put through because of wages left unpaid for months at a time. Unemployment allowance and mandatory compensation for delayed wage payments, are also not paid citing “insufficient funds”, resulting in a failure of the Act, and its legal safeguards. Most alarming today, is that instead of expanding, MGNREGA is all set to contract in this critical drought year, unless financial allocations are vastly expanded.
Sadly water trains to just parched Latur, is just not enough.
Instead of providing relief and succor to the people, the Bharatiya Janata Party is busy taking credit on the relief being sent to Latur by putting banners on the relief train. Instead of announcing concrete measures to deal with the situation, the Modi Sarkar is busy playing down the situation. Summers are approaching and the situation this year is expected to be grim, but still the Centre has refrained from taking meaningful steps. Even more gravely, the central and state governments are doing far too little to implement the National Food Security Act, three years after it came into force. Had the Act been in place, more than 80 per cent of rural households in the poorer states would be able to secure about half of their monthly cereal requirements almost free of cost. In a drought situation food security entitlements should be made universal.
Even as the country faces the worst drought since 1986-87 but Modi Government reduces funds for rural water from 9700Cr in 2013-14 to 5000Cr in 2016-17.
The Rural distress in several parts of the country has also impacted the Rural economy-demand as motorcycle sales are down for the first time since 2007-08
In the instance of a natural disaster, states are expected to use their own funds. But if the disaster has a high impact, it is normal practice for states to ask the Centre for additional financial and logistical support from the NDRF. The 13th Finance Commission (2010- 2015) had provided Rs. 33,580.9 crore for NDRF and the latest 14th Finance Commission, nearly doubled the amount to Rs 61,219 crore. Despite this the NDA Government has not been forthcoming to provide aid to drought hit states. Indeed, the government has released some drought-relief funds amounting to about 10,500 crore rupees to seven affected states until Mid – January. More than half of this allocation was for two states – Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
In the above chart we see that, except for Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, all other states have received much less than 50% of their demand from the centre. For this the BJP led NDA government in the centre drew howls of criticism for granting meagre amount to many drought hit states.
This clearly brings out the centre’s bias toward BJP governed states. Also a closer look at the states which received higher percentage of expected relief shows that Uttar Pradesh received 63% of requested relief this time. Whereas it is reported that last time the Uttar Pradesh government had asked for Rs. 4900 crore and got only Rs 490 crore, which is just a tenth of the total request made towards drought relief fund.
Pulses production has suffered due to lower output in 2014, damages due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms in March 2015 and shortfall in sowing (especially Tur)
This year overall production of pulses is estimated to increase by just 1%, as the second consecutive drought year takes its toll. Tur or arhar (pigeon pea), one of the most popular dals, has taken a hit with its production dipping by 9% from last year, and by 20% over 2014-15. Other pulses too are expected to see decline in production, bringing the total pulse production down by 12% compared to the non-drought year of 2013-14. This is ironic because 2016 has been declared the International Year of Pulses by the United Nations.
The Modi government has issued an executive order that contravenes the National Food Security law passed by Parliament in 2013 and effectively phases out the Antyodaya food scheme launched by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2000. Issued on March 20, 2015 by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, the order has come to the attention of Right to Food activists.
The order limits the distribution of food ration cards to “citizens” of India as against “residents” as provided under the National Food Security Act.
The 2015-16 Budget dealt the next decisive blow with punishing cuts to some of the key programmes under the Act. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) had a 50 per cent cut.
Similarly, the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) saw its budget reduced from Rs.13,000 crore to Rs.9,000 crore
The NDA government’s claim that it has allocated the highest ever outlay of Rs 38,500 crore to the scheme is not true. In fact, the highest-ever outlay since the scheme was first implemented in 2006 was Rs 40,100 crore, in 2010-11 during the UPA government.
In its apathy to deal with the Rural Distress and Severe Drought situation in the country, the Narendra Modi Government has completely failed the farmers of India. The Modi Government has made tall promises to the suffering farmers of this country, but did absolutely nothing for two years.
BJP and Shri Narendra Modi promised MSP of ‘Cost + 50% Profit’ in the run-up to 2014 elections repeatedly. On coming to power, Modi government submitted an affidavit dated 06.02.2015 in the Supreme Court stating that ‘Cost + 50% Profit’ on MSP can never be given. Relevant portion is reproduced herein-below:-
“It is reiterated that MSP is recommended by CACP on objective criteria considering variety of relevant factors. Hence, prescribing an increase of at least 50% on cost may distort the market. A mechanical linkage between MSP and cost of production may be counter productive in some cases.”
In fact, Modi government has an extremely poor track record when it comes to giving remunerative prices to farmers. Its amnesty policy has diabolically hit the farming community. Please see the enclosed chart.
2016-17 Union Budget of the Modi Government makes another tall promise to the farmers. They have vowed to double the income of farmers by 2022. But experts have question that promise.
The Government has even failed to implement the MS Swaminathan Report, a promise the Bharatiya Janata Party explicitly made in its 2014 Manifesto.
Forty percent of Shri Modi’s term has ended, only sixty percent is left and the Indian farmer continues to suffer.