Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Drought Relief for Tangible and Intangible Benefits: A Study of Government Drought Relief Work in Some of the Drought-Prone States of India

India has a diverse set of geo and physiographic conditions typifying its size. Its diversity is also reflected through various kinds of disasters that the country is vulnerable to. For instance, it has been identified that nearly 57% of the land mass is prone to earthquakes, 12% prone to floods, 8% is vulnerable to tropical cyclones. All these disasters are categorized as sudden onset disasters as they seldom give sufficient time for the administration to react in advance such that the impacts could be minimized. This very basic characteristic, apparently, seems to bring these disasters to focus in media and elsewhere. However, slow onset disasters such as drought, which is expected to occur in different phases spanning meteorological drought to socio-economic drought, gives ample time for the administration to react to this disaster. The same characteristic of this disaster makes the communities to adapt to it over a period of time such that at a given point of time the communities stop looking at it as a threat to their immediate and long-term prospects.

India has faced number of drought years, ever since the meteorological data is available. Out of these years, few of them could be termed as severe to most severe droughts. The all-India drought of 2002 caused an agricultural income loss of Rs 39000 crores to the country. Such losses, which prove costly to the nation’s economy, can repeat in no time as it was observed in 2004. This tantamount to say that the drought risk of the nation is ever increasing and hence deserves concerted actions from all quarters of the society to thwart its negative impacts on the nation’s development.

For example, the latest all India drought of 2002 saw the country spending Rs 2013 crores from the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF), Rs 2201 crores from the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF), and 87.36 MTs of foodgrains for relief employment under special SGRY. The country also spent huge amount of resources for transporting water and fodder by rail up to 30th June 2003[1].

In addition, the country has been spending considerable amount of resources on long-term drought risk mitigation programs through watershed development programs. These watershed programs, either implemented by the government of India through its Drought Prone Areas Program (DPAP) or by various non-governmental organizations, either in isolation or in conjunction with the state and below level governments, produced different results across the country, ranging from absolute failure to superb success. However, the recurring droughts proved that the drought proofing is far from reality and the country has a lot to achieve in this area. Severe droughts have not spared even those areas covered under long-term drought mitigation such as DPAP.

While drought relief aims at providing quick relief to the affected communities, so that the life returns to normalcy, it has to be understood that often huge amount of money has been spent in a very short span of time. The bone of contention is whether all this expenditure has led to tangible and intangible benefits? It is worthwhile to know the answer to this question. The present study on drought relief for tangible and intangible benefits aims at understanding what kind of benefits were accrued to the communities through drought relief interventions such that a corrective course of action could be chalked out. The study had a broad objective of understanding the elements affected by drought, identifying the tangible and intangible benefits of drought relief and studying the existing drought relief mechanism at few locations such that the deficiencies are identified and rectified for a better drought relief management. For more details on the concept of the study, please refer to Annexure II.

Full report can be accessed from here:

[1] Drought 2002. A Report. 2004. Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture.

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