"Drought situation is worse than floods in the state. It is a matter of serious concern for the government," he told the media after an aerial survey of half a dozen flood-affected districts.

He said that the drought situation has worsened due to poor monsoon rains in the state, but did not comment on the Opposition's demand to declare 24 of the state's 37 districts as drought affected.

Nitish Kumar said that the government has already chalked out a contingency plan to help affected farmers by providing diesel subsidy, dispatching scientists to the areas and eight hours of power supply to rural areas.

Leader of Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav said that millions of farmers have been affected by poor monsoon in 24 districts which have badly hit paddy sowing and triggered fears of another drought. He demanded that these districts be declared drought-affected.

Yadav said that the paddy crop in the state is likely to be worst hit by this dry spell as paddy transplantation has been completed in a little over one-fourth of the targeted 3.5 million hectares.

With the state recording a deficit of more than 27 percent in rainfall so far, it is not a good sign for the agriculture sector, particularly paddy cultivation, he said.

According to officials of the agriculture department, till date, less than 40 percent paddy seedling-plantation has been reported.

Monsoon normally hits the state between June 12 and 14. While the rains have begun, they have been scanty. "Districts in flood-prone north Bihar received good rains but drought-prone districts are yet to receive normal rains," said an agriculture department official.

According to the meteorological office, Bihar has received 325 mm of rainfall till date against its requirement of 398 mm, a deficit of over 18 percent.

The state government targeted paddy cultivation on 4.75 lakh hectares this year. "Till date, paddy seedling-transplantation has been reported on about four lakh hectares," an official said.

Reports received in Patna said that unlike in the past, there is no water for irrigation in the canals. A large part of central Bihar is irrigated by water from the Sone river, brought through canals. Even the water table in parts of central and south Bihar has depleted to alarming levels due to poor monsoon. A few farmers have managed to save paddy seeds sown early this month by pumping ground water.

(Agencies)

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