Even as UP Chief Minister Mayawati and Congress MPs continue to trade charges on the issue of development, the drought in the Bundelkhand region comprising 13 districts from UP and MP has meant that an average of about 40 per cent of the cultivable area was not sown during 2007-08.
As a result, according to a report prepared by a high-level inter-ministerial Central team which visited these districts during December 2007 and April 2008, there was doubling of distress migration in the last year with people demanding increase in the employment days under the UPA Government’s flagship NREG.
The report prepared under the chairmanship of Dr JS Samra, the CEO of National Rainfed Area Authority, has recommended a package of over Rs 8,000 crore on “definite basis” to tackle the worsening situation. The report recommends a little under Rs 4,000 crore for UP region and little over Rs 4,000 crore for MP region of Bundelkhand.
“Out of four years, moderate to severe agricultural drought occurred for two-four years in the 13 districts of Bundelkhand. Net sown area in 2007-08 ranged from 15 to 80 per cent of normal — with an average of 60 per cent — and 22 per cent decline in grain production was observed,” says the report.
In fact, the report points out that 75 per cent of Mahoba district (UP) and 78 per cent of Tikamgrah district (MP) of the region could not be sown in 2007-08 due to severe drought conditions. No wonder, the migration has particularly shot up last year, notes the report.
“Normally, 15-20 per cent of the labour out migrate from Bundelkhand after wheat sowing, and this figure was reported to be 40 per cent during the drought of 2007-08,” records the report pointing to the widespread demand for increasing the employment days under NREG.
“Hydrological drought was evident from 15 to 47 per cent decline in the filling of reservoirs in Madhya Pradesh, 28 to 64 per cent in UP over three years, 70 per cent dried up tanks, ponds and steep fall in ground watertable,” says the report submitted to the Centre on April 15, 2008. The situation is so bad that the depletion of groundwater and loss in the fertility of livestock, which happens to be a substantial source of livelihood in the region, due to unavailability of fodder that it “may recover in four-five years” only presuming normal rainfall, says the report.
Even as the Central Government sits on this report, Bundelkhand politics is going to take centre stage with Madhya Pradesh heading for Assembly elections later this year. The MP Chief Minister is already crying foul against the lack of enough Central support. Similarly, UP CM Mayawati is also likely to train her guns on the Centre for its apathy.