New Delhi: Madhya Pradesh has declared 35 out of 51 districts in the state as drought affected and sought an initial central assistance of 2,400 crore, indicating deepening rural distress.

Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha have already declared parts of their state as drought affected.

Madhya Pradesh finance minister Jayant Malaiya and agriculture minister Gouri Shankar Bisen met union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday evening and briefed him on the situation.

Apart from the 2,400 crore compensation to be paid to farmers for crop damage, the state also sought an additional 300 crore for drinking water supply and 750 crore for waiving off interest payments on loans.

According to the memorandum submitted by the state government to the centre, the deficit monsoon this year has affected over 4.8 million farmers spread across 33,283 villages in 228 tehsils (blocks) in the state. An area of 4.4 million hectare has been hit by drought.

Eastern Madhya Pradesh recorded rainfall that was 29% of the normal, while overall, the state recorded a deficit of 12%, according to the India Meteorological Department. For the entire country, the southwest monsoon, which irrigates over half of the farm land during the kharif season, recorded a deficit of 14%. In 2014, the national shortfall was 12%.

For Madhya Pradesh, as for Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, 2015 is the second consecutive year of deficit rains. Large parts of Madhya Pradesh also bore the brunt of unseasonal rains ahead of the rabi (winter) harvest.

More worryingly, notes the memorandum submitted to the centre, “it is quite apparent that large areas will remain uncultivated in the coming rabi season, due to lack of soil moisture".

The drought has affected the yield of soyabean and, importantly, pulses such as urad and moong, according to the state. “The yellow mosaic virus and white fly, which thrives due to drought, damaged these crops to a large extent in several districts," notes the memorandum.

According to the state government’s estimate, soyabean production is expected to be at 3.8 million tonnes (mt) against a target of 7.7 mt, meaning nearly half the soyabean crop has been destroyed. Similarly, production of urad is expected at 0.34 mt against a target of 0.48 mt.

The total loss in kharif production is estimated at 5.7 mt, over a quarter of the state’s target of 19 mt.

The states government estimates the crop loss at 13,846 crore.

Earlier, on 16 October, Maharashtra said that in 14,708 out of its 40,053 villages, crop yields had fallen by over 50%.

However, the state is yet to seek any central assistance till a final assessment of crop damage is done.

In August, Karnataka declared a drought in 27 of 30 districts and sought central assistance of 3,050 crore.

The drought in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other parts of the country is expected to dent production of rain-fed crops such as pulses—prices of which are already soaring—alongside soyabean, cotton and coarse grains.

According to the first advance estimate released by the farm ministry on 16 September, monsoon-dependent kharif output of foodgrain is likely to drop to 124 mt in 2015, compared with 126.3 mt last year.

However, with more states declaring a drought—Telangana and Uttar Pradesh may follow—these estimates may be not be met.

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