Editor’s Note: What’s Ailing Rural India is an award-winning series by CNBC-TV18. This month, the series shines the spotlight on the farm distress in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions in Maharashtra against the backdrop of the state government’s recent schemes to tackle farmers' woes.
Just mid-way through the monsoon cycle, farmers in Vaijapur taluka in Aurangabad have already lost hope of a crop this season.
After an initial spell of good rains in June, monsoon progression in Maharashtra has slowed down in the last 15 days, particularly in drought prone Marathwada region. Dependent entirely on monsoons for agriculture this lull period has meant bad news for farmers, who had sown maize, cotton and tuar early on.
“We have lost our entire kharif crop. We had sown early in June anticipating good rains this year, but all our investments have failed,” a farmer said, while digging the earth to show how dry the soil is. “Ideally the maize plant should have grown 3 feet by now, but it has wilted in just a few inches.”
Dhananjay Dhorde Patil, a farmer leader in the taluka said, “Kharif is a 3-4 month crop, we have already lost 1.5-2 months. Now even if it rains little and we want to attempt second sowing the yields will not be good enough and hence does not merit that investment.”
According to the Aurangabad district administration the district has just received 52 percent of rain and only 26 percent of the annual rainfall till now. Talukas of Vaijapur, Gangapur and Paithan are worst affected as these are entirely rain-fed agricultural belts.
Sowing has been completed on 87 percent of the total cultivable land in the district.
District administration has sprung into action with corrective measures and is diverting some water from the canals of Nandurmadneshwar dam to fields in Vaijapur. “The dam is in Nashik but the canals pass through Vaijapur taluka, so we are diverting. However only 12-15 villages close to the canal will get some relief,” Uday Chowdhry, Collector of Aurangabad told CNBC-TV18.
But the district has been in a vicious cycle for last many years. The district has in the past 3 years also worked on constructing over 10,000 farm ponds to store rain water and is expanding usage of drip irrigation. However, water availability through farm ponds tempts farmers to move to water guzzling, but remunerative cash-crops like sugarcane, hence over-utilising the water sources and draining it out.
Some water conservation projects under Maharashtra government’s Jalyukt Sivar program were also built, however they too have not been useful. “Projects under Jalyukt Sivar have been beneficial in areas where nature has supported it. Our region is perpetually rain deficient and hence conservation is a tall ask,” Chowdhry added.
Farmers are distressed as this is the second consecutive crop loss as most farmers had lost their entire cotton crop last year to pink bollworm infestation. “We have still not received any compensation for last year’s cotton crop failure and this season it is already destroyed.” There are at least 25 villages in this area that are affected this time, he added.
And now it is back to question of sustenance. “We have lost all our crop and now there is no work in our fields. So we go to other villages, 25 kilometers away to work as daily laborers on other’s fields,” said
Skymet says Marathwada region is currently running in deficit and the next 10 days will be critical to watch out for the remaining regions where farmers who are still holding on to their crops.
Follow the entire series