The Magnitude of Drought in Maharashtra:The severe drought situation in Maharashtra, estimated to be the worst in more than five decades, is drastically affecting the lives of thousands of families across the state. With less than 50 percent of the long-term average rainfall in the last two monsoon seasons and crop yield of less than 50 percent of the average yield, 2015-16 marked the second consecutive year of the agrarian crisis confronting the state. According to information furnished by the Drought Management Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare 21 of the 36 total districts in the state have been declared drought-affected in 2015-16. The state government has declared as many as 27,723 villages of the total 43,000 villages in the state as drought-hit. The regions of Marathwada (Aurangabad division), and Vidharbha (Amravati and Nagpur divisions) are the worst affected. The situation in the districts of Beed, Latur, Osmanabad (Marathwada) and Solapur (Western Maharashtra-Pune Division) is especially grave.Impact on farmers- Unfolding humanitarian crisisThe severe drought situation in the state has created a humanitarian crisis situation resulting in:
Mass migration- Massive distress migration to urban towns and cities is taking place as families are struggling to cope with the lack of water and failed crops. Lakhs of farmers and their families are moving out of their villages in search of work, water, and food. As adult men and women migrate to cities to seek employment, it is largely children, and the elderly population, who have been left behind in the villages.
Farmer suicides- Maharashtra reported the highest number of farmer suicides across the country in 2014 (NCRB- 2014). The major reasons for farmer’s suicides have been attributed to bankruptcy, family problems, farming related issues, illness, and drug abuse/alcohol addiction. According to data presented in the Rajya Sabha, the recent drought situation has fuelled a steep increase in the number of farmers committing suicide- in 2015 as many as 3,228 farmers in the state committed suicide- the highest since 2001.
Severe water scarcity- Maharashtra has the largest proportion of water reservoirs in the country, amounting to over 2500 reservoirs. But currently, these reservoirs only hold about 23 percent of their capacity. In the 814 dams and reservoirs in the Marathwada region, there is only five percent water left. At present, water is being transported to the worst affected districts via tankers and trains and in a number of districts the District Collectors have issued prohibitory orders on the use of the water being supplied by tankers to ensure that it is used only to answer basic needs and is not syphoned off for irrigation purposes.
In the summer of 2016, we realised that an urgent need in the drought affected areas was to ensure that people have enough food to sustain themselves till the monsoons arrived. Since Beed is one of the worst drought-hit districts in the state. It was decided to provide food relief in the villages of Shirur Kasar taluka of Beed district. Crompton and Grieves supported us in this effort of ours. The food relief was provided through community kitchens (similar to the concept of langars) managed and operated by community members themselves. The meals include khichdi or chapattis with vegetable.