Drought as Disaster – UPSC GS3

  • Drought is not defined as a disaster under Disaster Management Act 2005.
  • Drought in Telangana in 2017 (All lakes dried up, shortage of drinking water etc.)
What Supreme Court says:
With around 10 states reeling under drought, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre why the natural calamity could not be brought under the Disaster Management Act to release funds for the welfare of affected families. The court mooted the idea after noting that many states had not declared drought.
What Centre Says:
The Centre informed the court that its hands were tied and it could not force states to declare a drought as the matter came within states’ domain. Also, there is no statute to regulate declaration of drought.
Way ahead:
SC has  pointed out that drought could be covered under the Disaster Management Act. Drought was not expressly mentioned in the Disaster Management Act, but it can be covered under loss of crops.
Factors hindering drought management in India:
  1. Failure of MGNREGA
    The Central government had declared that the provision of work under MGNREGA would be extended from 100 to 150 days in all drought-affected areas. But this has not happened.Central government’s refusal to release adequate funds for NREGA is another problem.Fake and on paper work due to bureaucratic corruption which erodes the investment without any benefit in the area.
  2. Water Mismanagement
  3. Monsoon Dependence : Indian agriculture is still largely dependent on monsoon which is irregular. Failure of the government to gauge this irregularity on time and hence lack of alternate source for dependence. For e.g. Extensive rain water harvesting can be promoted in areas with good rainfall and also in drought prone areas when there is good monsoon. Creating a water bank for the time of crisis would help mitigate the adverse effects of drought.
  4. Inters-state water sharing disputes : States with surplus water do not wish to share water deficit states. For example, dispute over River Beas between Punjab and Haryana.
  5. Stalled Projects of River linking : The river linking project have been in the pipeline for long. There is a need for funding, effective planning and time bound completion of the project.
  6. Wastage of water in surplus area. For example, power subsidy in Punjab has led to extensive wastage of water through irrigation.
  7. Lack of scientific intervention
  8. No integration of Research and development with agriculture and lack of sound scientific practices.
  9. Wrong cropping pattern– for example sugar mafias and political leaders in Maharashtra have led mushrooming of sugar cultivation in an area ill-suited to it. Similarly, growth of eucalyptus tree in eastern U.P is again ill-suited as it is a water parasite and the region is not water sufficient. Cultivation of excessive water intensive crops as a result of green revolution compounded by high minimum support price for these crops.
  10. Low investment in water saving technologies, for example drip irrigation.
  11. Policy Failure
    Lack of planning and foresight, and criminal neglect.No comprehensive drought policy.It is unfortunate that four decades after the beginning of the green revolution, the country has failed to develop modern grain storage structures on a large scaleIneffective Food trade policy unlike China where it imports water intensive crops like Soy.No long term strategy but Temporary solutions like water train to Latur which yields no results.PDS problems– corruption, no proper targeting because of improper identification of beneficiaries etc.,Bad drought assessment as two years of consecutive drought government should have taken advanced steps.
Positive steps by government:
  • A semblance of social security system has emerged in rural India, with permanent income support measures such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the Public Distribution System (PDS), midday meals and social security pensions.
  • This reduces people’s dependence on special relief measures in drought years.
  • It is arguable that the PDS is even more important than MGNREGS as a tool of drought relief. Monthly food rations under the PDS are more regular and predictable than MGNREGS work. They also cover a much larger fraction of the rural population — 75 per cent under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). A well-managed PDS is a major safeguard against hunger and starvation.
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana is a good policy initiative that would accelerate public investment in both micro and macro irrigation.
  • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana
  • Organic farming is being promoted to reduce fertilizer use.
  • National action plan for climate resilient agriculture is promoting drought resistant crop
Related Questions:
  • Do you think, increased economic growth and slew of welfare schemes have obviated the need for active intervention in a drought situation? Critically comment.
  • Critically comment on the factors that have hindered effective management of droughts. (200 Words)

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