The answer to this question would come in different tunes from different sections of the society. The Government would stoutly deny any indication of drought, agricultural scientists would utter a cautious “yes/no” but farmers would have no hesitation in pronouncing that another drought is at our doors, seven years after 2002.
Rainfall in Kerala, which almost invariably begins on June 1 or a day earlier or later, is still scanty in this State, three weeks after the normal date of the arrival of the south-west monsoon, or for many, “the real Finance Minister of India”. Lack of precipitation in Kerala, has extended to the west coast of India, with the spectacular arrival over Mumbai still alluding the people there. Large parts of southern Maharashtra, western and central Karnataka, eastern and western Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are still to receive those life-sustaining precipitations. The Government has to be cautious for several reasons, in declaring the current dry spell as a drought. However, reporters covering the agriculture beat do not find the situation very encouraging.
The last major drought India had faced was in 2002, which had severely affected agricultural production. However, the year, 2003, was extremely favourable. Unfortunately, the next year, in 2004, the rainfall was 11 per cent less. It took three to four years for the country to produce the highest ever foodgrains in 2007-2008.
The relevant figures are : Year 1999-2000-foodgrains production 209.8 million tonnes ; year 00-01- 196.8 mt; year 01-02, 212.9 mt; year, 02-03, 174.8 mt; year 03-04, 213.2 mt; year 04-05, 198.4 mt; 05-06, 208.6 mt; 06-07, 217.28; 07-08, 230.78 mt and 08-09, 227.88 mt.
Thus, the good trend which had began in 2005-06 was put to a halt in 08-09. Now one hopes the production in 09-10 would be higher than 227.88 mt. Frankly speaking, with the advent of the monsoon delayed so much this hope may as well be belied.
It is true that not everything is lost in agriculture. Well, even with somewhat lesser production than 227.88 mt (the Rabi crop season will commence only from late October), not everything is lost. India does have in stock with the Food Corporation of India more than 40 million tonnes of foodgrains, one hopes, sufficient grains to enable the Government launch the National Food Security Act.
As we are aware, the Government proposes to provide to every family below poverty line rice or wheat at the rate of Rs. three per kilogram every month. This is a very ambitious programme and one does hope it proves to be a success like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which is already under vogue in some States such as Chhattisgarh.
However, it would have been a good augury if the beginning, that is the year 2009, would have an auspicious start for this revolutionary programme.
We are aware that lack of rainfall does not really affected the paddy crop in Haryana, Punjab and north Rajasthan, where massive pumping is resorted to for watering mainly the rice crop. And drought hardly affects rice production or productivity in this region, which includes western Uttar Pradesh. We, therefore, need not be too anxious on this score regarding the adequacy of foodgrains for the National Food Security Act.
What should worry us is the continuous neglect of agriculture in east areas of western Uttar Pradesh, where fertile lands are not utilised to the fullest extent for raising the productivity of mainly rice. More than 20 years ago, Dr Sen Committee had recommended measures that would raise the productivity of rice in areas like eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.
The second Green Revolution, if there is such a terminology in vogue, should indicate higher productivity of rice and other crops in eastern India in particular.
One may mention in this connection that the Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR) Karnal has already launched what is called the golden wheat programme which will raise the average productivity of wheat to eight tonnes per hectare. Why can’t similar programme be lunched in other rice producing areas?