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Low key Nuakhai celebrations in Odisha as spectre of drought looms large

In Balangir district, the most awaited agrarian festival of Western Odisha seems to have been robbed of its charm as cases of farmer suicides over debts and crop loss were reported.

Published: 10th September 2021 08:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th September 2021 08:19 AM   |  A+A-

Tribal women selling ‘chuda’ made from newly-harvested rice in Chandahandi market

Tribal women selling ‘chuda’ made from newly-harvested rice in Chandahandi market (Photo | Express)

Express News Service

BALANGIR/UMERKOTE:  With the drought situation looming large in the State, Nuakhai this year is likely to be lacklustre. In Balangir district, the most awaited agrarian festival of Western Odisha seems to have been robbed of its charm as cases of farmer suicides over debts and crop loss were reported from the district in a span of 4 days. 

The festival, where ‘Nabanna’ or rice out of newly-harvested paddy crop is offered to the local deity, is usually replete with grand celebrations among the farmers’ community as much as people from other communities in the districts. People clean their houses, wear new clothes, prepare delicacies like ‘Arisa Pitha’ and all family members come together to feast on the occasion. 

But this year, the celebrations have been shadowed by the distress of farmers.  As per information provided by the Agriculture Department, 1,87,000 hectares (ha) land is under Kharif cultivation this year in the Balangir district. But due to poor rainfall, transplantation activity is held up in 24,000 ha while 33,000 ha is believed to be severely affected.

The district received 29 per cent deficit rainfall in June, 22 per cent in July and a whopping 59 per cent in August which is said to be a crucial time for paddy crops as transplantation and beausaning operations take place. As a result, paddy and cotton crops have been affected in many areas of the district.  A dejected Laxmikant Jani of Nangalajori village in Bangomunda said Nuakhai this year has lost its flavour with a drought situation and imminent financial losses. 

“This year, drought has spoilt Nuakhai celebrations. Worst-affected are small and marginal farmers,” said Jatin Patra, a researcher from Belpada block.  In southern parts of the State, however, the atmosphere was relatively lighter as people geared up for festivities despite a lean season. The drought situation is no better in the Nabarangpur district that received 61.3 per cent deficit rainfall in the month of August. But here, people believe traditional festivals should be celebrated with the hope of better times to come.

On Tuesday, locals were seen flocking markets in Chandahandi, Raighar and Jharigam blocks bordering Kalahandi district. Women were spotted in weekly markets, selling newly harvested flattened rice or ‘chuda’. The adverse crop situation notwithstanding, the enthusiasm among the farming community was palpable.  Nuakhai will be celebrated across the State on September 11. 



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