Many parts of India are currently facing the worst ever drought in years and millions of people, especially in the rural areas are facing many challenges because of the same. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and some parts of North East are the worst hit. 42% of India’s land area is under drought and 500 mn people are severely affected, but on all parties manifestos, there is no mention of this ongoing crisis.
Even though the central government has yet not declared a drought, the state governments of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan have declared many parts of their districts as drought hit.
In the drought-hit area, there is an urgent need of providing water, fodder, waiver on interest on farm loan, and employment through MGNREA. In 2015 and 16, the country faced consecutive water crisis, and half of the nation was severely hit by rainlessness which hampered the growth rate of the economy.
India has a long history of droughts; during the colonial period due to the British government’s inability to provide preventive and relief measures, a lot of population perished in famines. During the 200 years of British rule, many famines took place.
The beginning of East India Company’s rule coincided with the famine of 1770 and ended with the Great Bengal famine of 1943, in which more than three million people lost their lives. After independence, a lot of times there was a situation of severe water scarcity because of arid summers, but due to immediate response and implementation of various preventive and relief measures by the government, India has not faced any famines and starvation as it did under the colonial regime.
The major reason behind the occurring of droughts is the inadequate rainfall during the Monsoon. The major portion of India’s geographical region is dependent on the Monsoons especially for agriculture, and the pattern in the last two hundred years indicates that after every seven to eight years a severe dearth of water occurs which ultimately results in a drought like situation.
Inadequate rainfall results in crop failure and agriculture distress. The consequences are low income from agriculture, unemployment of farmers, lack of fodder and water for livestock ( prices of fodder often shot up). Thus, often the farmers are compelled to sell their cattle at abysmally low prices to the buyers.
Due to lack of enough and sustainable income from agriculture, the farmers face the problem of indebtedness. Many studies have predicted that in the coming years India will face massive water scarcity. Water conservation using techniques like rainwater harvesting and maintenance of small ponds to recharge the groundwater levels is the need of the hour.
Since independence, the successive governments have implemented many programmes for the drought-prone areas. One such scheme MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) which has played an important role in providing employment opportunities to farmers during the dry spells.
At the grass root level, efforts of the community in the times of crisis also matters a lot. In the last few years, many organizations such as actor Amir Khan’s Pani Foundation and Nana Patekar’s and Makarand Anaspure’s NAAM foundation have played an important role in the building of small pounds, widening and deepening of water bodies with mutual cooperation and work (Shramadan). There is an urgent need to increase and spread awareness about recycling, reusing and conservation of water.