NEW DELHI: A week after the courts made an example of the Indian Premier League to forcibly turn the country’s head to the drought ravaging large parts of middle India, the Centre has placed the bald figures before the Supreme Court. The numbers are staggering.
A total of 33 crore people are affected by the drought. That’s a quarter of the population of India. 2,55,923 villages. 254 districts. 10 states.
The figures were on Tuesday supplied by additional solicitor-general (ASG) P A Narasimha to a Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice M B Lokur. The Bench was hearing a petition filed by the NGO Swaraj Abhiyan which states that not enough attention is being given to a drought that has enveloped parts of 12 states: UP, Karnataka, MP, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chhattisgarh.
And if April is the cruellest month, what might May be? Ninety-one reservoirs have only 23 per cent of their capacity left and the figure is likely to dwindle further when the summer peaks next month. At this time in 2012, India’s reservoirs still carried 28 per cent of their capacity. In 2009, there was 26 per cent remaining.
India faced a similar situation several times in the last 15 years. In 2002, 383 districts in 17 states were affected by a drought. In 2004, 223 districts in nine states suffered. In 2009, 388 districts in 15 states were hit. So having seen it all before, the Bench asked, why was the Centre sleeping over the situation for so many months and not sharing rainfall data with the states so that mitigating arrangements could be made.
The ASG’s spin on the numbers was that if an area is declared as drought-affected, it does not mean that its entire population is affected. For, not all are farmers. Nor are they all engaged in agriculture-related occupations. As per Central Statistics Office estimates, the share of agriculture and allied sectors (including agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery) was 15.35 per cent of the Gross Value Added during 2015–16 at 2011–12 prices. Over 58 per cent of rural households depend on agriculture.
The Bench asked the ASG why modern technology is not being used to assess the situation. “Between June and September, if rainfall is less than 75 per cent, the Centre should have told the states to be alert. In November and December, satellite information would confirm whether rainfall has been scanty. In January and February, you can come to conclusion whether crops have failed and you can ask the states to declare a drought. For mitigation purposes, your activity will start in August.”
Maha Cap on Borewell Depth
The Maharashtra government has banned digging of borewells below 200 feet due to acute water crisis in the State. Meanwhile, in Marathwada, only 3 per cent of water is left in dams in the parched region, officials have said.