Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM


Programme in Development Management

Drought and the Nation

Nature has endowed us with various resources but not everybody has equal control over them. Despite an inequitable distribution, all natural resources are important for humanity. Some resources have greater importance because they are either scarce or they lack substitutes; scarcity and a lack of substitutes make these resources expensive and sometimes out of the reach of the poor. Among all such resources, water has a great importance for all categories of people, whether rich or poor. Though water is abundantly available on our planet, access to safe water for drinking and sufficient water for various livelihoods is not ensured. Indian villages, most of which are substantially dependent on agriculture, suffer huge losses due to irregularity of monsoons and the worst: droughts.

A drought is a situation of shortage of water for people, animals, and agriculture. Droughts directly affect agricultural economics. Agriculture is the backbone of rural India since it employs the majority of the rural population, most of whom are poor. In most parts of the country, the farmers rely on monsoons for irrigation and practice rainfed farming. They are helpless when the monsoon sets early or late, because a major share of food grain production happens during the monsoon season (Bhandari, 2010). In other words, the monsoons are a key factor in Indian agriculture, and they determine the success and failure of crops. Sometimes, the monsoon is delayed to such an extent that it creates a situation of drought, thereby hampering all agricultural activities. In India, droughts usually occur due to the failure or delay of the South-West monsoon (June—September). The State declares a drought considering the amount of rainfall, damage to crops, availability of drinking water, and moisture in the soil. Droughts can result in crop failure, food insecurity, and a shortage of drinking water. A drought can also lead to problems like an economic crisis, uncontrolled inflation in food prices, unemployment, and large-scale migration.

Since agriculture in India contributes a significant share in the gross domestic product (GDP), a decline in agricultural productivity translates into a decline in net GDP. When a large number of people are not able to earn with agriculture, they are pushed to migrate. A decreased supply of food products increases the prices in the market, which impacts the poor the worst. In critical drought conditions, poor people die from hunger. Since agriculture is a prime source of raw materials for many industries, the manufacturing sector is also ultimately affected (Bhandari, 2010). With the industries, agriculture, and the population suffering economic blows, the revenue collection of the government also declines. Thus, a drought can indirectly affect public investment, which will further reduce opportunities of income for the poor.

The devil of drought can therefore pervade the whole nation. In such conditions, the government takes action to reduce the intensity of the issue. At this stage, the government acts in a typical delivery mode, for example by providing diesel subsidy, interest subsidy, and loan waivers to farmers. In many parts of India, droughts have been happening frequently but it was not the same in earlier days. The current approaches adopted to counter the issue are reactive which are not effective to generate sustainable solutions. Proactive steps should include focus on the conservation of the environment, promotion of indigenous water harvesting systems, regeneration of forest cover, controlling pollution, and ensuring the ecological balance of flora and fauna. Each individual can share the responsibility to maintain the ecological balance, control pollution, plant trees, and to ensure judicious usage of water. As a composite effect, it would contribute to the timely arrival of monsoon and prevent extreme situations of drought and hunger deaths.

Amarendra Kumar, PDM 11



Filed under: PDM 11, Spectrum, ,

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