With her legs in ankle deep muddy water,Sukni removes weeds from around the newly sprouted green paddy plants.Her kin Savitri,working on the adjacent field,sings a song in praise of the rain god.This scene in Ratu village would have been unimaginable till barely a month ago.
For the second time in the past three years,all the 24 districts of Jharkhand have been declared drought-hit,but incessant rains during the past three weeks changed the situation,ushering in hope and cheer for the farmers.
After the rain god left this state dry in 2011 only to pour the following year making the farmers reap a bumper harvest last year,monsoon, on which farmers are heavily dependent,had failed them this time.
The deficit in rain had left large tracks of land barren, and there was shortage of water for cattle. Even ponds, wells and dams such as Gonda, Rukka and Dhurva that supplied water to residents in Ranchi, had less than 30 per cent of their total capacity. Just when the entire state was in deep despair, incessant rains filled up the water bodies to more than half of their capacity.
“This is a big relief. Now we will not face water crisis till the peak of summer,” says Ashok Kumar, Deputy Secretary of the PHED, who is incharge of the dams.
In Ratu village of Ranchi district, the ponds and wells were full of water. This has prompted Sukni to till his 2.5 acres of land and sow paddy seedlings and now, these green seedlings are almost two feet in height. “In the past we sowed the seeds in June-July. But this time since it began to pour this month, we undertook sowing and transplantation in September. We hope the rains will continue so that we can harvest by January,” says Sukni.
The state government had sought a package from the Centre to deal with the drought situation.Though the Centre was yet to respond,the state government had released more than Rs 400 crore to provide relief to the draught hit farmers.Although this money has not been spent till date, farmers like Sumana are not complaining.
In Kudu village in Lohardaga district, a farmer has undertaken cultivation of maize in 1.5 acres and another has planted pulse in his 2.5 acres of land.
A few miles away in Thakurgaon village in Ranchi, Murli Manjhi says, “Our crisis is far from over. But one thing is sure, our cattle will not starve.”
The story from across the fields is largely the same, with the state agriculture department claiming that against the target of sowing the farmers had sowed paddy only in 50-60 percent of their cultivable fields.”This is where lies the problem for us to intervene”,said Agriculture Secretary Arun Kumar Singh