Andhra Pradesh’s ‘war on drought’ fails to save crop

Amaravati: The “war on drought” announced with a lot fanfare by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has failed to yield the desired results with groundnut crop output plummeting despite crores of rupees spent on providing water to the arid fields.

Scanty rain during July-August prompted the state government to declare the ‘war’ on drought by deploying thousands of rain guns to wet standing groundnut crop in 15 lakh acres in Anantapuramu district, 4.5 lakh acres in Kurnool and two lakh acres in Chittoor as it faced the threat of drying up.

The Chief Minister himself led the campaign by camping in Anantapuramu for over four days while at least 10 ministers, a number of legislators, 21 IAS officers, 80 deputy collector-rank officers and scores of other staff were drafted in these districts to oversee the operation.

As many as 6,777 rain guns and 6,434 sprinklers have been deployed in Anantapuramu district, 2,285 rain guns and 2,686 sprinklers in Kurnool, 3,915 rain guns and 3,855 sprinklers in Chittoor and 356 each in Kadapa districts, according to government statistics.

“Our aim is to save every acre of the crop and we are confident that we will succeed at least 90 per cent,” Chandrababu had announced on August 30 before leaving for Anantapuramu.

Incidentally, the Chief Minister, who boasts of a “realtime governance” using his “CORE Dashboard”, sounded lost when asked why there was at least a 10-day delay in taking up drought mitigation measures.

“My people had not told me. Neither did you people (media) report (the gravity of the situation),” he remarked.

The ‘war’ cost the exchequer a whopping Rs 280 crore with Rs 160 crore spent on procuring the rain guns alone.

The balance Rs 120 crore was spent on sprinklers, motor pumps, pipes, fuel and other needs, according to a senior official of the Disaster Management Department.

The latest reports on crop cutting, however, are dismal.

As against the normal yield of 1000 kg per hectare, the crop cutting experiment revealed that only 213 kg was achieved, indicating massive loss to the farmer.

“Had nature been kind, we could have saved the crop. But we did our human effort,” Information and Public Relations Minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy, who hails from Anantapuramu district, observed.

He said only Rs 29 crore was spent on the drought mitigation measures.

Interestingly, less than ten days after the “war on drought” was carried out, the Chief Minister released a glossy booklet with “success stories” of his mission and how the hapless farmers of perennially drought-hit Anantapuramu appreciated his “innovative idea” (of using rain guns).

Asked about this, Palle said, “It was successful for that day”.

Now, the state Agriculture Department is preparing a detailed report on the whole exercise and hopefully it should throw light on what went wrong.