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Farmers turn to faith as drought looms in Odisha's Ganjam

Struggling to eke out a living due to the pandemic, farmers and migrant returnees of Ganjam believe the frog dance ritual, also called ‘Bengei Nacha’, would open up the skies.

Published: 09th August 2021 07:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th August 2021 07:44 AM   |  A+A-

Children of Patrachudi village during the ‘bengei nacha’ ritual.

Children of Patrachudi village during the ‘bengei nacha’ ritual. (Photo | Express)

By Express News Service

BERHAMPUR: Half the monsoon season is gone and farmers of Patrachudi village under Chikiti block stare at a drought-like situation with little rain for their crops. Desperate, they are resorting to the traditional ritual of frog dance in the hope to appease the gods.

Villagers catch frogs from the locality, bathe them with turmeric water and smear vermilion on their bodies. The frogs are then tied to a pole and taken around the village by the kids. It is believed the croaking sound of the frogs ushers in rainfall. The procession on Sunday culminated at the village goddess temple where the elders performed a special puja and released the frogs in the nearby fields.

Struggling to eke out a living due to the pandemic, farmers and migrant returnees of Ganjam believe the frog dance ritual, also called ‘Bengei Nacha’, would open up the skies. The district has reported a 32 per cent deficit in rainfall so far. Against 481 mm rain expected during the June 1-July 8 period, it has received just about 325 mm rain.

With just 23 mm rain received in the last week, which is 60 per cent less than normal, farmers hope the ritual may help kick off the kharif season because many of them have not been able to start agriculture activities due to lack of rain resulting in water bodies drying up. 

Farmers like Janaradhan Odia of Patrachudi and Bijay Sukla of Digapahandi stare at a bleak kharif season if things continue this way. “Our fields have developed cracks. Many farmers had taken hand loans and sown paddy but due to scanty rainfall and lack of irrigation facilities, the seedlings have been damaged at the germination stage. Only some divine intervention can save us,” said Janardhan. Others echoed similar sentiments and said they had made all arrangements for ploughing anticipating good rain but their crops have now withered due to lack of water. 

Not very far, suicide of Dasarathi Bisoi, a farmer of Boulajholi village under Kukudakhandi block on August 5, has drawn the ire of villagers who blame the administration for turning a blind eye to their irrigation needs.

Meanwhile, a delegation of BJP Krushak Morcha met the family of Bisoi and said it would seek assistance from administration. Bisoi ended his life under mounting pressure of debts, his family said. He tilled about 1.5 acre land for which the farmer had taken a loan of Rs 1 lakh. With rains drying up and crop failure looming large, family members said, Bisoi took the extreme step.

“Most of the cultivable lands in the district are rain-fed. In its absence, it is the duty of the administration to supply water to us. We pay water taxes on time but are devoid of any benefits when we need it the most,” said Simanchal Nahak of Rushikulya Rayat Mahasabha, a farmer’s union. The Rushikulya canal passes through most of the villages but water was released from it only after the death of Bisoi and widespread agitation by farmers. Contacted, agriculture office sources said the irrigation department is making efforts to release water in the canals in a phased manner.

Meanwhile, Ganjam Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange directed the district agriculture authority to enquire into the death of Bisoi and a report in the connection was submitted by the block agriculture extension officer B Mohapatra.
 



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