Strategies for managing droughts: Background note for a Seminar

Immediate context: Year 2015-16 drought

Per official data[i] (Central Government’s submission before Supreme Court) till April 19, 2016 a quarter of India’s population (33 crores people in 2,55,923 villages, 254 districts, 10 states) was drought[ii] hit. The Supreme Court Bench was hearing a petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, which stated that not enough attention is being given to a drought that has affected large parts of the country. The Bench inquired why the “Centre slept over the situation for so many months and was not sharing rainfall data with the states so that mitigating arrangements could be made”[iii]. The toll of distress is enormous and this year drought has severely hit regions in Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. A news[iv] item in Hindu dated 10th April 2016 points out how the severity of drought has increased leading to local police invoking Section 144 to prevent violence over water because Maharashtra Government ignored the early warnings. The news[v] item also states that in Marathwada’s drought affected districts, 31 per cent of the gram panchayats had not shown any expenditure under MGNREGS[vi] till 31st March.

The immediate measures suggested by Yogendra Yadav in the aforesaid news to alleviate the sufferings of rural populations include (a) declaration of drought to prise open the funds from the State Disaster Relief Fund (b) take emergency measures to tackle the water crises (c) implement the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the State Employment Guarantee Scheme (d) restructure agriculture loans (e) enhanced ratio under the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) (f) compensate farmers for crop losses and (g) stop diversion of water for non essential purposes-temporary ban on supply of water for water-intensive sugarcane crops, ban reopening of sugar factories, regulate drawing of water by bottling plants and stop unauthorized diversion of water for industries. The measures suggested above are of emergency nature either providing relief (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) or temporary ban on certain use of water (g).

In another development, hearing PIL filed by NGO Loksatta Movement, a division bench headed by Justices V M Kanade and M S Karnik asked BCCI “how can you waste water like this (on preparation of Stadium for IPL cricket matches). People are more important or your IPL matches? How can you be so careless? Who wastes water like this? This is criminal wastage.”

The condition in Maharashtra is particularly bad this year. But droughts[vii] are not a new phenomenon. India has been subject to weather-related turbulence for years, whose frequency has been rising over the years. Every now and then the country is hard put to it in tiding over a drought situation. Yet attempts to lessen structural vulnerabilities are missing.

Inadequate response to forestall drought situation

Droughts are an outcome of long neglect given that by and large there is no scarcity of reasonably accurate data as well as information on the enormity of the situation these days. Usually this information is available well before the south-west monsoon starts retracting from the country. Meteorologists are well able to predict the range of shortfall of rainfall in terms of per cent of the long-period average[viii] (LPA-50 year) rainfall. Post 2000 the percent departure of southwest monsoon from LPA was high in 2002 (-19.2), 2004 (-13.8), 2009 (-21.8), 2014 (-11.9) and 2015 (-14). Yet, governments both at the Centre and the States do very little to forestall the drought situation and mitigate distress as is apparent during this year’s drought.

The country was faced with meteorological drought[ix] second year in a row in 2015 and this transformed into an agricultural drought. The problem was aggravated by the fact that the monsoon retreated faster than average during the fall. CRISIL had in a report titled Angsty Farms in August 2015 itself identified four states (Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh) and five crops (jowar, soyabean, tur, maize and cotton) as most likely to be hurt by below-normal rains this year. The analysis was based on CRISIL’s own Deficient Rainfall Impact Parameter (DRIP).

Highly vulnerable states
States High share of agriculture households High indebtedness Low irrigation cover Low reservoir storage levels Poor crop insurance
Maharashtra Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Haryana Yes No Yes No Yes
Punjab No Yes Yes No Yes
Uttar Pradesh Yes No Yes No Yes
Rajasthan Yes Yes Yes No No
Karnataka No No Yes Yes Yes
Odisha Yes Yes Yes No No
Gujarat Yes No No No Yes
Andhra Pradesh No Yes No Yes No
Madhya Pradesh Yes No Yes No No
Kerala No Yes Yes Yes Yes
West Bengal No No No No Yes
Tamil Nadu No Yes No No No
*A second year of weak monsoon can affect the efficacy of irrigation systems even in states with high irrigation cover.

Source: CRISIL Research quoted in

Per prediction early this year, drought was expected to worsen in 2016, as there was little rainfall in winter 2015 and should the 2016 monsoon fail. A good thing is that the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has in early April 2016 eased fears over a third consecutive year of drought, and has in fact predicted[x] “above normal” (106 percent of LPA) monsoon this year more so after the El Nino condition diminishes by June and July. Skymet, India’s only private weather forecaster too predicts that the annual monsoon rains are likely to be above average. This comes as a respite after two straight years of drought — 2014-15 and 2015-16. In 2015-16, ten states had declared drought and the Centre has sanctioned relief package of about Rs 10,000 crore for the farmers. 2015 also saw very poor post-monsoon rain leading to startling fall of reservoir levels. This is the case in 2016 too. In April 2016, ninety-one reservoirs have only 23 per cent of their capacity left and the figure is likely to dwindle further when the summer peaks next month. At this time in 2012, India’s reservoirs still carried 28 per cent of their capacity. In 2009, there was 26 per cent remaining.

Agriculture output got subdued leading to falling farmers’ income. This is because “agriculture accounts for about 14 per cent of India’s $2 trillion economy, Asia’s third-biggest, but it supports two-thirds of Indian’s population”[xi]. Drought plays a key role in restraining demand for an array of consumer goods, as 70 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion people live in villages. The situation as regards drought is so serious in the country that Ashok Gulati, Advisor (Agriculture), Niti Aayog states that “in some states there could be over 20 per cent decline in foodgrain production. In large parts of the country the farmer has got negative returns…The government needs to come up with a sustained incentive structure for the farmers, else India could slip back to the era of food shortages experienced in the 1960s”[xii].

Returns in agriculture are low and drought causes greater distress. Electoral promise of farmers receiving 50 per cent returns over their total costs went down the drain when “data collected by the government revealed that farmers have got negative returns on many agricultural produce. There is a small positive return of 6.5 per cent on paddy, and this too only in states like Punjab and Haryana where the MSP system works well. In eastern states, where the MSP system is very weak, farmers have had to sell paddy at 10 to 15 per cent below cost of production. The Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP) collects countrywide data on cost to the farmers product-wise and the prices received by them via the Minimum Support Price system put in place by the government”[xiii].

“India’s model of agricultural development too is to blame. It has been built on crop-centric research focused on yield improvements, with scant attention being paid to the natural resource context of agricultural development. While it has pushed up the rates of growth of agriculture and of food, in particular, it has also resulted in crop systems with considerably reduced diversity and flexibility. It has led to a severe depletion of natural resources of water and soil, and has significantly intensified the use of synthetic chemical inputs and pesticides… Along with water, soil is another area where urgent investments are required. Healthy soils with high organic matter content have better water retention and hence contribute to conservation of soil moisture.”[xiv]

On the contrary, many point that the drought does not lead to a larger food and water scarcity situation all over the country. A report[xv] suggested that the country as a whole was ‘insulated’ from 2015-16 drought. The report based on Agriculture Ministry’s second advance estimates in February 2016 states “total foodgrain production in 2015-16 is expected at 253.16 million tonnes (mt)… This is only 4.5 per cent below the 265.04 mt of 2013-14, which was, in turn, an all-time-high… India’s agricultural output hasn’t taken as much a hit from back-to-back droughts this time round as with previous monsoon failure episodes.” It is also believed that the impact of drought on “agriculture, is magnified because the non-farm part of the Indian economy has been struggling, as underscored by poor investment and manufacturing activity”[xvi].

All said and done, the phenomenon of drought stares us every now and then.

State response

If we look at reality of drought in India, especially in the States of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, part of Orissa, part of Jharkhand and parts of Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, we observe that these droughts are of the nature of regular occurrence. Following the laissez-faire policy of dealing with droughts during the colonial times, the policy post-Independence was positive and succeeded in preventing mass starvation and death. Yet, there were many lacunae. State response of setting up of relief works and disbursing aid — whether as cash or kind was shortsighted and inadequate. It is usually unable to deal with the scarcity of food, work or water in these chronic drought areas. Each time there is a drought the state responds through harebrained ad hoc short run schemes and firefighting policies. Emergency measures, though necessary, give temporary relief by providing the crucial purchasing power to the drought-stricken people but does not solve the problem. “There is no doubt that there is little connection between the drought relief works programmes and long-term plans consistent with the needs of the area.”[xvii]

Usually public works programmes taken up during droughts are unplanned and involve temporary constructions like bunds, unlined channels, desiltation of public wells, drinking water borewells, kutcha roads and other works (mostly earthwork), which cannot withstand the next rains. Buffer food stocks have been supplied to the public through the public distribution system during drought years, sometimes through food imports. However, some point that the government is often not keen on releasing foodgrains from its stocks and this could be because in “drought-hit areas it can only help vested interests — the surplus farmers and traders.”[xviii] “By keeping foodgrain releases for the food-for-work programme to the minimum, by encouraging export of farm commodities and by giving in to pressures to raise procurement prices, the government is actively helping rich farmers to make the most of the opportunity for making additional profits provided by the drought.”[xix]

At the same time, state support to water-guzzling crops continues even in drought prone areas like Marathwada. A paper on drought in Bundelkhand suggests that “the distress of the region simply cannot be explained by the absence or irregularity of rainfall. There are long-term structural problems, which have had a cumulative effect over the years. Reasons for the present unviability of agriculture should be sought in the historically determined social relations of production, the intimate correlation of caste and landownership in the region as well as the neglect of traditional water management systems and the push towards cultivation of water-intensive commercial crops”[xx].

Further, programmes like watershed development which were conceptualized following a review of DPAP and DDP schemes in1990s, and had been taken up to conserve and store water have invariably led to increased use of water. A study by Chandrakanth et al suggests that watershed development’s role in augmenting groundwater recharge in hard rock area is doubtful as the “life of irrigation wells and their groundwater yield is gradually declining due to many factors especially the interference of irrigation wells due to violation of isolation distance among wells, overdraft of groundwater, etc. Interference among wells is a negative externality”[xxi]. SPWD’s experience of watershed development too suggests this.

Should one look at drought as natural phenomena that is indifferent to human action or does drought itself get defined within human action? If drought is defined within human action, then there can be a way of drought proofing of drought affected areas. One can think of achieving drought proofing following a right approach. One will have to understand the whole political economy of drought and carry out a practical critique of the same. Understanding political economy of drought means knowing how a region is declared drought affected, with what understanding relief work is taken, in what perspective the soil and water conservation programmes are conceived and how the employment guarantee programmes are looked at.

Tushaar Shah says that a “pecking order has now emerged in India with respect to drought-proneness of different areas. Rainfed agriculture areas are hit the hardest by a drought” [xxii]. Scholars like Lyla Mehta have pointed to the dryland blindness of planners. Based on a study on Kutch, Gujarat, she notes “state-sponsored interventions in Kutch have not only failed to mitigate water scarcity but have exacerbated problems in some areas. This is largely due to the dryland blindness of planners who have applied solutions from the rest of Gujarat to Kutch instead of designing strategies suited to the region. What Kutch needs is rainwater harvesting, livestock development and better techniques of dryland agriculture”[xxiii].

Droughts have been grist to political mills always. Political economy issues, need for political survival, greater public action/media pressure/judicial action (especially Supreme Court’s intervention)/ research support, electoral politics between Centre and State and within the State has an important role to play in drought declaration and in provision of drought relief. “In electoral democracies, where political parties have to face the electorate to form governments, incumbent governments are more likely to be re-elected if, inter alia, they discharge their responsibility of providing drought relief properly.”[xxiv]

There is lot of politics around declaration of drought with states urging the centre to declare it as a national calamity in the hope of seeking generous drought relief. Urgent measures are taken up and States immediate interest is in seeking relief fund that would benefit State officials or in devising long-term plans like interlinking of rivers or mega projects that would benefit contractors. Jairath says that to combat drought “the need for mega projects in the water sector is socially constructed (mostly unsound)” [xxv].

Administrative set-up and institutional arrangements for allocating relief funds[xxvi] necessitate coordination among various government Ministries and Departments as well as between the Central and State governments. Most media reports and studies point to meager government relief efforts, delayed relief payments, corruption and an inappropriate administrative set-up. Usually state governments respond late: their efforts include organizing of more tankers of water to parched villages, setting up of cattle camps, developing surface and groundwater sources like borewells/open wells/tanks apart from combating drought through relief works under National Calamity Contingency Fund and more recently through MGNREGS.

Effect of drought on communities and their coping strategies 

In rural areas where agriculture is the chief economic activity, it is important to recognize the impact of drought on the social and economic conditions of the people. “The impact of drought on communities can be seen at two levels: impact on the food security pattern and on the economic condition.”[xxvii] Households adopt different coping mechanisms when faced with drought. A paper by Acharya to assess the effect of 1987 drought (the worst in the century) in Ajmer and Udaipur and the adjustment mechanism adopted by rural families to mitigate its effect states: “first generation effect of drought is observed in the form of decrease in production via decrease in area and productivity. It also affects demand and supply of inputs and agricultural products and their prices… the second generation effect of drought is observed in the form of decrease in employment and income” [xxviii].

Most studies[xxix] [xxx] and SPWD’s field observations indicate that net sown area, gross sown area, cropping intensity as well as irrigated area decreases following drought. Not only that, farmers’ attempts to sow crop fail owing to poor germination and repeated sowings are resorted to and even then farmers barely get normal yields. Cropping pattern changes are common and in case of repeated failure during germination, fodder crops are cultivated. In case of drought years in a row like the recent one, farmers cannot mitigate the impacts of drought by using carry over storages — both ground and surface water of previous years. Allied activities also take a hit especially livestock like cows, buffaloes, goats & sheep and fodder production which register significant decreases. The study by Acharya discusses the coping strategy of rural households: “to compensate for the erosion in income and purchasing power, farmers used various adjustment mechanisms. During drought year, sample families borrowed funds from both institutional and non-institutional agencies for both production and consumption purposes. The farmers who could not command adequate grazing and fodder resources resorted to sale of their livestock at whatever price they could fetch. The investment in productive assets like irrigation equipment, construction and deepening of wells, land leveling, and transport equipment during the drought year was much lower or almost negligible as compared to the previous normal years” [xxxi].

A study by Patnaik[xxxii] based on an analysis of households in two villages in drought prone Balangir district (KBK district) in Odisha suggests “the impact of drought leads to the reduction in food security of the households. The strategies used by households were sale of livestock, asset and shift in employment pattern and migration of people”. The study[xxxiii] shows that the economic loss of drought leads to disinvestment and adversely affects the asset creation of the farm households. The inability of poorer households to adopt proper coping strategies may increase vulnerability and widen gap between the rich and the poor. The poor and marginalised community of the backward region, without proper coping strategies, lack of provision of institutional arrangements and lack of assets pushed the people behind the poverty trap due to the occurrence of repeated distress situation like drought.

Studies indicate that the occupational structure in drought prone rural areas undergoes significant change. There is a substantial decrease in workers engaged in agriculture and as non-agricultural labourers. Farmers migrate outside their own villages in nearby towns/ faraway locations, at times get engaged in drought relief works and hire out resources/ assets and sell or even abandon livestock back home. Studies indicate that a “lot of migration from drought-prone areas was along old and established routes, which although precipitated due to a ‘push’ of some kind (such as drought and crop failure) have now become regular and accumulative paths to engaging in high-return labour markets” [xxxiv]. And this transforms into a long term coping strategy in a way. Generally speaking, the nutritional level in drought years is far less when compared to normal years, both in terms of quality and quantity. Last but not the least, curtailing expenses on consumer goods and social activities is an important coping strategy apart from remittances from family members.

Combating drought: What needs to be done?

This implies that in spite of all the coping strategies used by rural families to deal with the effect of drought, their distress is sizable. The worsening situation of dryland agriculture is created not just by drought related crop failure but also by poor terms of trade. In the context of drought Dre’ze says “durable elimination of vulnerability requires promotional policies such as expansion of general prosperity, reduction of insecurity through economic diversification and creation of secure earning arrangement”—to provide for “both secure lives and secure livelihood”. On the other hand, to deal with droughts some have suggested diversification: Way back in 1992 an EPW paper stated “it is time now that we give up our fetish for producing foodgrains even in poor soil and drought prone areas and diversified our production, export and import pattern. If we did that we should be able to cope with our recurring droughts and consequent starvation and unemployment much better than at present” [xxxv].

Amartya Sen in his book Poverty and Famines—An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation notes that “administrative policy and strategy during the drought period must address itself to the task of making food available to the vulnerable section of the society”. It is especially critical to lessen the brunt of drought on the food and nutritional security of the poor. “This will require having a strong social safety net programme for the targeted population, especially for poor consumers and smallholders. In the long run, technological interventions will be necessary to offset the effects of drought. Therefore more research effort on alternative coping mechanisms and investment in them will be necessary to protect the poor from the effects of drought.”[xxxvi]

Per a study by Rao et al[xxxvii] the food security system in our country “reflects two basic flaws in our policy-making for agriculture and rural development”. The better off sections among farmers get way more attention in policy making when compared to smallholders. Also, backward areas like drought prone areas urgently need investment and infrastructure, but the policies emphasize on temporary and ad hoc relief measures. PRIs have a long way to go towards decentralization and debureaucratisation even when there has been an increase in resources available to them.

What about public relief works during droughts? Can they provide employment to drought affected population and compensate for the eroded income? Programmes like Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP) have not adequately benefited drought prone areas. Per a study in drought prone Marathwada “government programmes, even those which have been specially designed for these areas—fisheries schemes have aided private fish traders rather than the poor, allocations for pasture development have been misspent, plantation schemes are unsuitable for poor soils and milk production has been sluggish in Ahmednagar”[xxxviii].

A programme like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGS) cannot simply be viewed as one for providing employment[xxxix] which it often is. SPWD’s experience is that works taken up under MGNREGS should not be taken up haphazardly like they are now. The shelf of works should be prepared well in advance and used in such contingencies. During droughts, MGNREGS entitlements should be enhanced to supplement the existing one and all avenues of employments such as on private works should be explored. Of course, new orders[xl] do mention that the money under the scheme can be used on individual’s field for developing agriculture resources.

It is also observed that MGNREGS is not supporting smallholders to become good managers of their resources but is turning them into wage earners. This is happening partly because of Government functionaries’ attitude towards ‘wage earner’, ‘wage earners’ attitude towards the work and rest of the communities’ attitude towards ‘wage earner’ leading to low self-esteem of ‘wage earners’ and partly ‘wage earners’ not getting the proper knowledge and scope of the programme. Government orders are not available or understood by them. The question is – do people feel totally alienated from work and see MGNREGS as a kind of relief programme or do they feel that the work being undertaken can help them bring their natural resources to the threshold required to make them better managers of their resources and farming activity.

Also, awareness of the administration on the importance of wage earning locally or through migration (be it in distress situations like drought/ accumulative) in the lives of the poor is awfully low. “Policy-makers tend to perceive it largely as a problem, posing a threat to social and economic stability and have therefore tried to control it, rather than viewing it as an important livelihood option for the poor”[xli]. Per Farrington et al (2001) “this is nothing but ‘yeoman farmer fallacy’, where own-account farming is assumed to be what the poor really want and all have some prospect of succeeding in”[xlii]. In fact, all attempts at watershed development through the 1990s have had reducing migration especially during droughts as a goal “by making it economically more attractive for people to ‘stay at home’ (de Haan, 1999).

As of agricultural development, Desai states the need for “proactively encouraging ICAR and state agricultural universities to rapidly evolve a package of technology including crops/enterprises for different soil moisture conditions”[xliii]. Selvaraj highlights that “understanding agricultural risks and the ways of managing it are very crucial in the context of their impact on agricultural production and livelihood of the people, particularly in a water limiting environment. Although the use of high-yielding varieties has brought huge gains in yield, variability is still a formidable production risk in a rainfed environment… It is imperative that the varieties meant for a water limiting environment should ensure minimal level of yield during the stress period and this could induce the farmers to go for a higher level of adoption. Continued research on development of drought-tolerant rice varieties and seed supply management are crucial.”[xliv]

Per a study in Karnataka “long-term measures like rejuvenating the natural resource base including developing fertile soil, enhance the water table and retention capacity and increase the forest resource at village level in drought-prone areas alone will serve as a buffer from drought”[xlv]. Long-term measures like soil and moisture conservation measures, afforestation, development of pastures and grazing lands, diversification of economic activities away from crop farming to horticulture, livestock rearing and cottage and rural industries along with necessary market support, and full exploitation of ground and surface water sources will have to be systematically planned and implemented for drought proofing of these areas and families.

Jairath says that “localized water resource development is a preferred point of departure (from mega projects) for contending with the problem of water scarcity; and, non-contentious ways of encouraging water-extensive land use patterns should be explored as mechanisms for coping with water scarcity”[xlvi]. Bandyopadhyay is of the view that solutions to drought “can be sought only on the basis of a comprehensive understanding of the ecological factors at the root of the problem. Drought has generally been associated exclusively with deviations in rainfall. In actual fact, the current water scarcity is a result of our failure to ensure the stability of the water cycle in the course of implementing developmental programmes”[xlvii].

Tushaar Shah et al[xlviii] set forth the concept of groundwater banking. He says that groundwater has emerged as India’s prime adaptive mechanism in times of drought. “Instead of pumping money into dams and canals, Indian agriculture will be better off investing in “groundwater banking”. This involves storing surplus flood waters in aquifers which can be drawn upon in times of need”[xlix].

The task at hand is to focus on enhancing the resilience of Indian agriculture in the face of recurring droughts. Government programmes and schemes for the small holders give thrust on water and soil conservation (mainly water harvesting for instance MGNREGS) and on improving farming practices (for instance MKSP). These programmes are being implemented in drought affected areas or other areas which may become drought affected if natural resources are not used sustainably. Components of alternative models of agricultural development[l] have been demonstrated through “micro-level experimentation by concerned scientists, many civil society organizations and farmers themselves”[li]. Greater public investment is needed to “upscale and integrate these components into a package for reducing drought vulnerability” [lii]. For this, convergence of ongoing programmes like the MGNREGS, MKSP, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) etc., is essential. Drought proofing then becomes part and parcel of sustainable resource management. Drought proofing has to be designed in a location specific manner incorporating resource availability & use pattern and knowledge. Involvement of Governing functionaries and relevant local Government/Non-Government institutions is must.

Developing a collective understanding on various aspects of drought with local community is a critical step in the direction of taking up practical activity. This requires frequent, regular interaction with communities on Government programmes and policies, technical options and need of community institution. A major shortcoming in civil society initiatives is that almost all of them have failed in making community as knowledge centers that take initiative in becoming resource managers. Many of the community institutions stop working once NGOs leave. There is also a need to draw in learnings from anti-drought movements that had a wide popular appeal among locals and were able to influence the water distribution policy of the State as in Maharashtra (led by Mukti Sangharsha in Sangli) that focused on local control of natural resources, equitable distribution of water and sustainable farming. Khera’s analysis reveals that “in order to ensure adequate response to drought, all democratically available spaces – be it electoral politics, media, judicial action or research – need to be used. The use of any one of these in isolation can, but does not necessarily, guarantee success” [liii].

A paper by N S Jodha[liv] suggests that “although current drought management practices have made considerable headway in minimising the impact of drought in dryland areas, they have tended to ignore and, therefore, undermine farmers’ traditional coping strategies which include components such as people’s participation and collective sustenance. This has also resulted in reducing the effectiveness of modern drought management techniques. A better grasp and understanding of the importance of traditional coping strategies adopted by farmers is undoubtedly called for”.

To combat drought it is important that our developmental planning does not treat the problems of rainfed areas as peripheral. P R Dubhashi in early 1990s proposed that droughts “should be taken care of through a ‘compensatory development plan’ built into the development plan with a provision for augmenting it when required… The elements of such a plan would include programmes for the prevention of groundwater depletion and its replenishment, watershed development through microplanning, prevention of indiscriminate destruction of forests, restoration of forests through replanning and social forestry, change in cropping pattern from more water intensive to less water intensive crops through research, extension and price incentives, development of drought resistant varieties, dispersed production, procurement and stocking of foodgrains, improvement and protection of grazing lands, reduction of cattle population, access to tribals and poor people to minor forest product land reforms and programme of public health and nutrition”[lv]. He notes in an EPW[lvi] paper that the “perspective required to view drought in relation to development rather than in terms of emergency relief is missing”. Mathur[lvii] also came to the same conclusion. “Drought should be looked upon as a central problem of development in India and the approach should be drought proofing and not temporary relief. The long-term approach would not allow the drought relief schemes to be taken in isolation. It should rather be to integrate these with the development projects and programmes under implementation. The long-term plans should be based on anticipation of drought.” [lviii]

Prepared by Amita Bhaduri and Hardeep Singh , Society for Promotion of Wastelands Development (SPWD),  for a Seminar by SPWD, CSIR-NISTADS, DSF and RRA Network on June 3, 2016

Endnotes and references


[ii] Drought can be defined as deficiency in rainfall numerically equal to or greater than 25 per cent of the normal.


[iv] Maharashtra ignored my warning on drought, says Yogendra Yadav, The Hindu, 10th April 2016

[v] Maharashtra ignored my warning on drought, says Yogendra Yadav, The Hindu, 10th April 2016

[vi] Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme

[vii] Drought is a phenomenon which slowly unfolds from one phase to another — meteorological drought, hydrological drought and agricultural drought.

[viii] Anything less than 90 percent of the LPA is termed as a “deficient” monsoon and 90-96 percent of the LPA is considered as “below normal”. Monsoon is considered as “normal” if the LPA is between 96-104 percent of the LPA.

[ix] The IMD classifies a meteorological drought as one where the overall rainfall deficiency is more than 10 per cent and 20-40 per cent of the country is under drought-like condition.





[xiv] How do we combat droughts? Economic & Political Weekly, January 23, 2016 Vol lI 8 No 4



[xvii] Arun Ghosh, Drought: The Rajasthan scenario, Economic and Political Weekly August 22, 1987

[xviii] BM, Drought relief: Belated, half-hearted, Economic and Political Weekly September 5-12, 1987

[xix] BM, Government helping rich farmers profit from drought, Economic and Political Weekly, October 31, 1987

[xx] Perspectives, Drought by design: The manmade calamity in Bundelkhand, Economic & Political Weekly, January 30, 2010 Vol xlv no 5

[xxi] M G Chandrakanth, Bisrat Alemu, Mahadev G Bhat, Combating negative externalities of drought: Groundwater recharge through watershed development programme, Economic and Political Weekly, March 13, 2004

[xxii] Lyla Mehta, Drought diagnosis: Dryland blindness of planners, Economic and Political Weekly July 1, 2000

[xxiii] Lyla Mehta, Drought diagnosis: Dryland blindness of planners, Economic and Political Weekly July 1, 2000

[xxiv] Reetika Khera, Political Economy of State Response to Drought in Rajasthan, 2000-03, Economic and Political Weekly, December 16, 2006

[xxv] Jasveen Jairath, Drought of sanity and flood of the absurd: Politics of water discourse, Economic and Political Weekly, February 15, 2003

[xxvi] Famine codes that were laid out in colonial times (1880s) following the Famine Commission report 1880 delineate the scope of public relief works.

[xxvii] Itishree Pattnaik, Livelihood Pattern and Coping Mechanisms during Drought: A Study of Two Villages in Odisha , Working Paper No. 116, RULNR Working Paper No. 17, August, 2012

[xxviii] S S Acharya, Drought and Response of Rural Families, Economic and Political Weekly, September 5, 1992

[xxix] Itishree Pattnaik, Livelihood Pattern and Coping Mechanisms during Drought: A Study of Two Villages in Odisha , Working Paper No. 116, RULNR Working Paper No. 17, August, 2012

[xxx] S S Acharya, Drought and Response of Rural Families, Economic and Political Weekly, September 5, 1992

[xxxi] S S Acharya, Drought and Response of Rural Families, Economic and Political Weekly, September 5, 1992

[xxxii] Itishree Pattnaik, Livelihood Pattern and Coping Mechanisms during Drought: A Study of Two Villages in Odisha , Working Paper No. 116, RULNR Working Paper No. 17, August, 2012

[xxxiii] Itishree Pattnaik, Livelihood Pattern and Coping Mechanisms during Drought: A Study of Two Villages in Odisha , Working Paper No. 116, RULNR Working Paper No. 17, August, 2012

[xxxiv] Priya Deshingkar and Daniel Start, Seasonal Migration for Livelihoods in India: Coping, Accumulation and Exclusion, Overseas Development Institute, Working Paper 220, August 2003

[xxxv] S R Sen, Drought, starvation, unemployment: Some corrective measures, Economic and Political Weekly, May 9, 1992

[xxxvi] Praduman Kumar, P K Joshi, Pramod Aggarwal, Projected Effect of Droughts on Supply, Demand, and Prices of Crops in India, December 27, 2014 Vol XlIX No 52, Economic & Political Weekly

[xxxvii] V M Rao, R S Deshpande, Food security in drought-prone areas: A study in Karnataka, Economic and Political Weekly, August 31, 2002

[xxxviii] Madhusudan Dattatraya Sathe, Drought-Prone Area Programme in Ahmednagar, Economic and Political Weekly, September 5-12, 1987

[xxxix] Dutta, P, R Murgai, M Ravallion and D Van De Walle (2012), “Does India’s Employment Guarantee Scheme Guarantee Employment?”, Economic and Political Weekly, 47(16): 55-64.

[xl] Government of India (2013), ‘Mahatma Gandhi national Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (Mahatma Gandhi NREGA): Operational Guidelines 2013’, Ministry of Rural Development, New Delhi.

[xli] Priya Deshingkar and Daniel Start, Seasonal Migration for Livelihoods in India: Coping, Accumulation and Exclusion, Overseas Development Institute, Working Paper 220, August 2003

[xlii] Quoted in Priya Deshingkar and Daniel Start, Seasonal Migration for Livelihoods in India: Coping, Accumulation and Exclusion, Overseas Development Institute, Working Paper 220, August 2003

[xliii] Bhupat M Desai, Drought impact and vision for proofing, Economic and Political Weekly May 24, 2003

[xliv] K N Selvaraj, C Ramasamy, Drought, agricultural risk and rural income: Case of a water limiting rice production environment, Tamil Nadu, Economic and Political Weekly, June 30, 2006

[xlv] S Rajendran, Drought in Karnataka: Need for long-term perspective, Economic and Political Weekly, September 8, 2001

[xlvi] Jasveen Jairath, Drought of sanity and flood of the absurd: Politics of water discourse, Economic and Political Weekly, February 15, 2003

[xlvii] Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, Political ecology of drought and water scarcity: Need for an ecological water resources policy, Economic and Political Weekly December 12, 1987

[xlviii] Tushaar Shah, Avinash Kishore, Hemant P, Will the impact of the 2009 drought be different from 2002?, Economic & Political Weekly, September 12, 2009, Vol xliv No 37

[xlix] Tushaar Shah, Avinash Kishore, Hemant P, Will the impact of the 2009 drought be different from 2002?, Economic & Political Weekly, September 12, 2009, Vol xliv No 37

[l] How do we combat droughts? Economic & Political Weekly, January 23, 2016 Vol lI 8 No 4

[li] How do we combat droughts? Economic & Political Weekly, January 23, 2016 Vol lI 8 No 4

[lii] How do we combat droughts? Economic & Political Weekly, January 23, 2016 Vol lI 8 No 4

[liii] Reetika Khera, Political Economy of State Response to Drought in Rajasthan, 2000-03, Economic and Political Weekly, December 16, 2006

[liv] N S Jodha, Drought  management: Farmers’ strategies and their policy implications, Economic and Political Weekly, September 28, 1991

[lv] P R Dubhashi, Drought and Development, Economic and Political Weekly March 28, 1992

[lvi] P R Dubhashi, Drought and Development, Economic and Political Weekly March 28, 1992

[lvii] Drought, Policy and Politics by Kuldeep Mathur; Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp 139; Rs 195.

[lviii] Drought, Policy and Politics by Kuldeep Mathur; Sage Publications, New Delhi, pp 139; Rs 195.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s