08/25/2009, 00.00
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Drought and Famine in India due to scarce monsoons

by CT Nilesh
The rains during this monsoon season had been scarce, sometime not even half of the normal. Some states had already declared a state of drought. The rice harvest will be 10 millions tons less. The specter of starvation is threatening India.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - India is facing a difficult time. The monsoon this year failed and the government is gearing up to face the emergency. Nearly half of the country is reeling under drought that could cut rice production by over 10%, but the government will use its reserves to check prices and also increase ration supplies, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said .

The centre will release its reserves of wheat and rice in the open market if their prices go up. Ten states have declared 246 districts as drought affected. This come to about 46% of total districts in the country. Newspapers are reporting cases of suicide of farmers: six last week in Vidarbha.

Pawar said the Centre would provide additional food-grains to states for distribution among 115.2 millions people below poverty line. Meanwhile he had forbidden any export of rice, wheat and sugar.

Also the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday that the government is ready to import food-grains to contain the impact of drought on the availability of essential commodities. Food prices in the country are likely  to remain high. Though the global prices of food products have fallen in the last year, the prices in India surged. The fear is that when India will enter the global market to purchase food-grains, prices worldwide will also jump up.

But it is strange that a few days these news appeared in the Indian press a news item came saying: “Wheat enough for 1,5 million families for one year is rotting in the fields of Punjab. Even as drought and food scarcity loom large, India’s granary, Punjab is losing 1,8 million metric tons of wheat to wastage.” In Khamanu, 50 km from the capital Chandigarh, rows of wheat bags are piled carelessly, telling a sorry tale of neglect and callousness. There are hundred thousands of bags, each weighing 50 kg, which went bad as it remained out in the open for months and years together.

In Punjab, which produces 15 millions metric tons of wheat, two third of it is stored in the open. Agriculturists have complained at the lack of government infrastructures in the country’s food basket. That is why most of the wheat produced is exported to other countries an used as cattle feed.



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