The most prolonged and widespread drought to hit India for several decades continued unbroken this week -- with millions of people hit by crop failure, shortage of food, and serious shortages of water.
GV PAN Parched landscape and dried water-reservoir
CU PULL BACK TO SV PAN Parched trees (2 shots)
MV PAN Deserted village
CU TILT DOWN Dried-up well under cover
MV Highway PAN TO refugee tents on roadside
CU PAN Bundles of meager personal possessions (3 shots)
SVs & CU Villagers breaking up stones on government road-building programm (4 shots)
CU Women queuing for water from water cart
SVs Refugees receiving and drinking water (7 shots)
Initials BB/0047 WLW/DE/BB/0102
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The most prolonged and widespread drought to hit India for several decades continued unbroken this week -- with millions of people hit by crop failure, shortage of food, and serious shortages of water. One of the hardest-hit areas is Maharashtra state, which is under drought for the third year in succession. It has not rained there since September last year.
The state, in India's west, faced serious rioting recently as the central Government was blamed for poor handling of relief supplies. Last year, only 3.1 million tons of foodgrain was grown in Maharashtra -- against a norm of about seven million tons. The situation, according to news reports, is also being aggravated by the Government's take-over of the wholesale wheat trade last month -- leading to reluctance by farmers to dispose of stocks at fixed prices, and to hoarding by shopkeepers and wealthier consumers.
But on senior relief officials denied, in a statement to a news agency on Saturday (April 28), that drought conditions were 'alarming'. Conditions were becoming worse, but could change if the monsoon came on time, said the official -- who declined to be named.
About four million people in the state are living on government relief or working on relief projects.
The long-awaited monsoon, meanwhile, appeared on Wednesday (May 2) to be nearing Sri Lanka. From there, it would normally reach Maharashtra within & month or six weeks.
SYNOPSIS: The most prolonged and widespread drought to hit India in several decades has continued to cause severe hardship in many ares. Water is in seriously short supply; crops have failed depriving millions of people of their incomes and food supplies are running short.
One of the hardest-hit areas is the country's western Maharashtra state, where thousands of small farming villages have been deserted in the face of dried-up water wells and crop failures. The state normally produces about seven million tons of foodgrain annually. Last year, it produced less than half that amount.
Hundreds of thousands of villagers in the state have been driven out of their homes and forced into the towns--where their tented settlements litter the roadsides. But although this drought is the worst ever, it's nothing new to them -- this is the third year in succession that the state has been hit by drought. The Government, in an effort to ease their plight, is giving relief aid or work on relief projects -- like road-building -- to about four million people. That's about ten per cent of the state's population.
The Government's relief programme has come under criticism. There were riots over the situation recently. According to news reports the Government's takeover of wholesale wheat supplies recently has led to hoarding by farmers, reluctant to sell at fixed prices, and by shopkeepers and wealthier consumers. But one relief official said that the general drought situation is not alarming. Reports of the monsoon nearing Sri Lanka have raised some hope. This would normally reach the state about five weeks after passing over the island.