ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rajasthan: Drought, Debt and Poverty

The culture of wasteful consumption of water has led to the current crisis in Rajasthan. Dependence on tube wells has grown over the years, and groundwater levels have fallen. Relief is inadequate and corruption eats into even this meagre help.

Rajasthan is not unfamiliar with drought. Drought and famine have been a regular feature for this state. If Eskimos living amidst snow have 20 different terms for ice, Rajasthanis distinguish between four different kinds of famine: ‘annakal’ (shortage of food), ‘jalakaal’ (shortage of water), ‘trinakaal’ (shortage of fodder) and ‘trikaal’ (shortage of all three). In Marwar region, the modern Jodhpur division covering Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Pali, Jalore and Sirohi districts, according to traditional wisdom, there is one lean year in three years and one year of famine in eight years.

Among the great famines recorded in history, one was in 1661, when the Rajsamand lake was dug as part of famine relief works. It has dried up this year, the first time since its construction. In popular lore, the last great famine was in 1899-1900, the ‘chhappaniya akaal’ named after the year 1956 (Vikram era). Recorded rainfall levels in Rajasthan show a trough every decade or so. The present period is one such, occurring after the 1987-88 phase.

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