ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How Do We Combat Droughts ?

Agriculture cannot be revived without a different approach to water, soil, crops and research.

For the second year in succession, rainfall in the monsoon season has been less than normal. As many as 302 out of the 640 districts in the country have been declared drought-hit and the impact of the drought is the severest in nine major states of south, central and east India. It is striking that even after nearly 70 years of agricultural development and massive investments in irrigation, rural electrification and provision of farm subsidies, the country is still vulnerable to extreme climate events like droughts. The rate of growth in agriculture is down from about 4% in the Eleventh Plan to just 1.7% in the first three years of the Twelfth Plan (2012–15). Since agriculture even today is the source of livelihood to an estimated 600 million Indians, droughts push the already precarious lives of smallholder farmers and agricultural labourers to the brink, leading to massive agrarian distress.

Finding a way forward in Indian agriculture may require a substantial rethinking of the current model of development. The model of development followed in the country since the late 1960s has led to a growing vulnerability to droughts and climate variations. This model 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.

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