Part II: Maharashtra drought - after the wilting, the struggle

Maharashtra drought

Fields withering in Marathwada, dowry demands go up, farmers put off weddings.

Ambar Singh Bamnavar would have married off his two youngest daughters, but had to put his plans on hold because of complications presented by the drought in Maharashtra.

He is one of 412 farmers in Sagarwadi village of Jalna district in Marathwada region. Each has lost his fields and his orchards, as have many more across the region, leading to higher dowry demands. Of 70 weddings planned in the village last year, only eight took place.

The village is one of 970, all declared drought-affected, in a district that has had a little over 25 per cent normal rainfall, with rains in the state deficient for a seventh straight year.

Last August, when the state declared a drought in 123 talukas, the cutoff was 50 per cent of average rainfall, or 50 per cent of average sowing. This January, when it declared a drought in 7,064 villages, it took into account the kharif crop's final paisewari, or average return per hectare. The provisional rabbi paisewari, declared on January 21, shows it under 50p in 3,905 villages. The state has sought Rs 685 crore as Central assistance on account of the crop damage.

In Sagarwadi village, five per cent of mosambi (sweet lime) plantation has survived, part of a trend across the region. Sowing has been absent on 11 per cent of the total area. It has been under 50 per cent in 35 talukas that received less than 50 per cent rainfall, and also in 43 that did get more than 50 per cent.

"Most farmers are in the same, or a slightly better, financial condition than mine," said Bamnavar who, having postponed his daughters' weddings, has instead spent Rs 1.6 lakh in digging four borewells over the past year to water his jowar and mosambi farm. "I tried to raise Rs 5 lakh by selling two acres, but there were no buyers," said Bamnavar.

... contd.

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