Famines and droughts in Rajasthan

Famines and droughts in Rajasthan

The state of Rajasthan is prone to famine and droughts, particularly the western-most districts consisting of Thar desert which often experience successive years of scarcity and droughts.

Types of droughts:

Put simply, a drought is a failure of rain, leading to moisture stress, that in turn leads to agricultural losses and other forms of social and economic hardship. There are many definitions and classifications of drought, including that of the National Commission on Agriculture (quoted in Bokil 2000) which has defined three types of drought:

  • Agricultural drought:
    • When crops are affected due to moisture stress and lack of rainfall.
  • Meteorological drought:
    • When there is more than 25 per cent decrease (from normal) in rainfall in any area.
  • Hydrological drought:
    • When recurring meteorological droughts result in decrease in surface water and groundwater levels.

Under this classification. if drought occurs in 20 % of the years in any area, it is classified as drought prone area and if the drought occurs in more than 40 % of the years. it is classified as chronically drought prone area.

Causes of droughts in Rajasthan:

Droughts in the Indian sub continent are mainly due to failure of rainfall from southwest monsoon. The root cause for failure of monsoon rainfall is cued to the widespread, persistent atmospheric subsidence, which results from the general circulation of the atmosphere. Recent studies on interactions between global circulations and drought showed that the EI Nino phase of the Southern Oscillations (EN SO) has the largest impact on India though drought.

Declaration of drought in Rajasthan:

The Scarcity Manual (formerly known as the Famine Code) for Rajasthan lays out the rules and procedures to be followed in declaring a drought.

While the Scarcity Manual includes many criteria, in practice, the State government has come to rely almost exclusively on the girdawari report and the losses in sowing and production reported therein. The girdawari report is a land-use report and is prepared by the patwari (land records official) of each panchayat. To calculate the losses, the current year’s figures are compared with area sown and production in “normal” years (defined as the average production for the past few years). On the basis of this, calculations of affected population are made. The other criteria in the Scarcity Manual include distress migrations, increase in thefts, news of starvation deaths, etc.

Difference between droughts and famine

While, droughts and famine may seem referring to same thing. However, in actuality there is a huge difference. Famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including war, inflation, crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.


Frequency of Droughts in Rajasthan

Low rainfall coupled with erratic behaviour of the monsoon in the state make Rajasthan the most vulnerable to drought. Based on historical data the frequency of occurrence of droughts in the state is given in following table.

Frequency of Droughts in Rajasthan


Loss due Famine/Scarcity condition in Rajasthan

Famines and droughts in Rajasthan