AGRICULTURE AND IRRIGATION

FAMINES

1396-1408: The old Gazetteer of the district recorded twelve famines which occurred between 1396 and 1877. The first awful calamity which practically emptied all the districts in the southern India was known as the Destroyer or Durga Devi famine. The twelve years ending 1408 were said to have passed without rain, and grain was sold at one sher the rupee. The country between the Godavari and the Krishna yielded very little revenue and was so unsafe that the people who returned were driven from their villages. Dadu Narsu and a Turkish eunuch of the Bidar court were appointed to arrange the country and bring back the people. They fixed new limits of villages by amalgamating two or three villages into one. Lands were given to all who would till them. For the first year no rent was asked and for the second the rent was limited to a horse-bag of grain.

1460: In 1460, a failure of grain was said to have been followed by famine over the whole of southern India. It was known as Damaji-pant's famine. Damajipant was the keeper of a large Government grain store at Mangalvedha, twelve miles south of Pandharpur in Sholapur district. He distributed the grain to persons who were starving, but was saved from punishment by the god Vithoba whom he worshipped. It was stated that the god Vithoba went to the court at Bidar and paid the value of the grain.

1520: In 1520, the Deccan was so unsettled that no crops were grown and there was a famine.

1629-30: In 1629-30, a failure of rains was followed by famine and pestilence.

1790-1794: The great famine of 1790 raised the rupee price of millet to three shers. The disorders of the four following years also caused famine conditions in Akola, Jamkhed, Parner and Sangamner talukas. In 1794 large numbers died from want and from cholera.

1802 : In 1802, the district passed through a time of greater misery than it had suffered since 1408 mainly because of war between Yeshvantrao Holkar and the Peshwa and Shinde. The rainfall of 1802 was plentiful and the prospects were on the whole good in the district. However, two of Holkar's officers Fatesing Mane and Muhammad Khan Pathan destroyed all the villages on both sides of the Godavari. Bands of Pendharis were also spread all over the country plundering and wasting. The ripening crops were cut as fodder, the late or cold-weather crops either could not be sown or were destroyed, and the grain stores were also plundered. Even at one sher the rupee, no grain was available. Wild vegetables were eaten boiled with a pinch of rotten wheat flour. Young tamarind leaves were mixed with white earth and made into a jelly. It was after the treaty of Bassein (31st December 1802) that things came to normal.

1803: On the top of this distress came an entire failure of the late (September-October) rains of 1803. In the Deccan the crops everywhere failed. In Ahmadnagar alone the deaths were estimated at 5,000 to 6,000. About 5,000 people were fed daily at Ahmadnagar.

1824: In 1824, the early rains failed and there was much distress for about four months, probably from May to August. The rupee price of millet rose to 8 shers. In September Captain Pottinger sanctioned an expenditure of Rs. 200 on ceremonies for rain, to soothe the people all of whom were in the greatest alarm. A large number of people went to the Nizam's country where the rains were favourable. They did not come back. As such the fields in the district remained waste and large remissions had to be granted.

1832-33: In 1832-33, a partial and in some places an almost complete failure of rains caused much distress. The want of grass and fodder drove away the shepherds and stopped the carrying trade.

1845-46: In 1845-46, a failure of rains raised the rupee price of millet to 10 shers. The distress lasted for six months.

1862: In 1862, the failure of the early rains was followed by great scarcity. Numerous public works were sanctioned to employ the destitute. Among them were the construction of roads, from Ahmadnagar to Karmala, Ahmadnagar to the Balaghat and the improving of the roads from Ahmadnagar to Sirur, Chandnapur pass road, Kolhar-Nandur road, Jeur to Karmala in Sholapur district and of the road from Paithan to the foot of the Imampur pass. To relieve the distress among the lower grades of Government servants grain compensation according to a fixed scale was granted to all Government servants whose pay was less than Rs. 200 a month. In 1868 relief works connected with the Pravara water scheme were begun.

1876-77: In 1876, untimely rainfall of only 10.65 inches caused a failure of crops and distress amounting to famine over about two-thirds of the district. On the 12th of September, when no hope of a change for the better remained, in Akola the early crops seemed good, in Shevgaon they were fair, in Jamkhed, Kopargaon, Ahmadnagar, Nevasa, Parner and Sangamner, they were bad; and in Karjat, Rahuri and Shrigonda, they were very bad. In addition to the failure of the early harvest September and October passed with only a few showers. Except in watered lands no cold-weather crops were sown. A large section of the labouring class fell into distress. However, in February 1877, the large supplies of grain and irrigation relieved much of the pressure. The following hot months again brought a return of distress with a further rise in prices, and afterwards the failure of the early rains caused much anxiety and suffering, which were gradually removed by a timely and plentiful rainfall in September and October, 1877 and at the end of November, the demand for special Government help had ceased.

The following statement shows the average monthly millet prices and numbers who received relief in 1876-77 [Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol. XVII, Ahmadnagar, 1884, p. 292.]: —

Month

Average daily numbers

Pounds the rupee

Rain

on relief works

on gratuitous relief

Bajri

Jvari

Civil

Public

Total

1876

       

November

13,319

16,236

29,555

--

21

23

--

December

12,058

24,227

36,285

--

26

26

--

1877

          

January

8,276

18,279

26,555

944

26

29

Heavy rain.

February

2,735

10,926

13,661

889

24

26

--

continued..

Month

Average daily numbers

Pounds the rupee

Rain

on relief works

on gratuitous relief

Bajri

Jvari

Civil

Public

Total

March

651

17,101

17,752

1,118

24

25

Little rain

April

1,374

24,414

25,788

1,711

24

25

1.15

May

2,492

26,849

29,341

3,512

24

22

Good rain

June

2,800

28,962

31,762

5,539

22

21

4.7

July

351

28,296

28,647

3,218

19

18

3.17

August

52

28,391

28,442

2,967

14

14

5.6

September

1,077

26,812

27,889

3,429

13

13

4.15

October

494

1,625

2,119

4,546

20

18

4.07

November

275

886

1,161

727

25

27

2.27

December

--

--

--

7

26

27

0.44

Total

45,954

2,53,004

2,98,958

28,607

19.36

Average

3,535

19,462

22,997

2,384

Total cost

Rs.

8,10,973

48,395

Grand Total

Rs.

8,59,368

 

Rats and Locusts: Besides drought, the district had to face rats and locusts. In seasons when the early south-west rains fail the number of rats is always excessively large. They eat seeds and nibble off the ears and cause heavy damage to crop. The loss due to this was so heavy in the years 1826, 1835 and 1879 that they were marked as ' rat years'.

In 1826, a failure of the early south-west rain was followed by a plague of the rats called mettades Gollunda mettada. They ate much of the seed and when the grain began to ripen they climbed up the jowar-stalks and nibbled off the ears. So completely were many fields wasted that no rents could be recovered. The land-lords paid Vadars and thousands of rats were killed but without perceptibly lessening their number. In September 1835, a quite incalculable army of rats infested many of the sub-divisions for a considerable time. Between January and March 1879, when the country was covered with jowar and wheat crops, hosts of rats and mice chiefly harans Gerbillus indicus, mettades Gollunda mettada, and koks Nesokea indica appeared in Parner, Shrigonda and Karjat. They attacked the fields before the grain was ripe enough to cut. Government then offered a rupee and some time after eight annas for every hundred dead rats. Vadars, Bhils and Mahars killed large numbers, some by poison and most by trapping. About 17,68,000 rats were killed and rewards amounted to about Rs. 16,870.

In October 1879, when the millet was in ear, a swarm of locusts came from the north, most probably from Marwar and Sind, swept over a belt of country about fifteen miles wide, and passed south. As they flew, they looked bright-red and had a red under-wing. The people then called them tol. The fields where they alighted were cleared of their grain in an hour and a half. The locusts of the same species again appeared in June 1882. They were not close together, perhaps one every two yards, but the flight was in depth about an eighth of a mile and in breadth about sixty miles from Paithan in the east to Rahuri in the west. Their flight was from the south-east to the north-west. However, many stayed and laid eggs about the end of June. The eggs were like lumps of clean rice, and that the eggs laid by each locust seemed stuck together in a small heap. Within a month or so minute green insects swarmed in the fields doing no harm and causing no alarm. In September there came heavy showers separated by gleams of sunny weather and the insects sprang into new life and subsequently they greedily devoured every green thing and caused most serious damage. Various experiments were made to control the locusts but they did not meet with success. In more than 500 villages the early crops had suffered. In fifty-nine villages in Kopargaon the early crops were entirely destroyed and in all the other Kopargaon villages they suffered severely. Serious damage was also done in 128 villages of Sangamner, fifty-seven of Nevasa, 153 of Akola, ninety-two of Rahuri, and seventeen of Ahmadnagar. The loss caused in Ahmadnagar was estimated at about quarter crop, in other sub-divisions it ranged from three-eighths to a half. Akola suffered most as there were no late crops to make good the loss of the early crops. As parts of the district had suffered from several previous bad harvests Government then remitted or postponed the collection of about Rs. 1,60,000 of land revenue chiefly in the parts of the district where no late crops could be grown.

In 1880, with the setting in of southerly winds, great swarms of locusts again passed north through the North Konkan to Ahmadnagar. In June they paired, laid eggs, and died. Great efforts were made to destroy the eggs and insects. All available officers of every branch of Government service were employed as circle inspectors and in supervision. People also showed much willingness and activity in the work of destruction of the locusts. These efforts were aided by heavy rain under which numbers of the young locusts perished. By the end of November 1883 the locusts had disappeared.

Besides rats and locusts, frost also caused heavy damage to crops in the district. The severest frost of which record has been traced was one in January 1835. On many lands the crops were wholly destroyed. Next cold weather, on the 26th of December, a severe frost did incredible damage.

1896-1897: Famine occurred in 1896-97, mainly due to the want of monsoon rain. The whole district was affected. Relief works were opened and continued for 14 months. The maximum number of persons receiving relief reached 1,09,829 in September.

1899-1900: During this year the rains failed, and the whole district was again affected with severe famine. Relief works were opened in 1899, the daily average being 351, and were continued upto the end of October 1902. During this period the crop out-turn was only 25 per cent of normal. In 1899-1900 the maximum number relieved was 2,69,415 (in June), 29,205 being in receipt of gratuitous relief. Special relief was also given to weavers in their own craft during the famine. The death rate in the district was 66.11 per mille and the total number of deaths from all causes on relief works was 7,850, of which 3,792 were due to dysentery and diarrhoea and 1,031 to cholera. The percentage proportion of sexes and children among the relief workers in the district was 33 males, 49 females and 18 children. The average wage per worker unit was Re. 0-1-6.

1900-1901: In 1900-1901, the same area was affected as in the previous two years. The highest number in receipt of relief was 1,25,277 in July, 32,811 being gratuitously relieved. The death rate during the year was 29.73 per mille. In 1901-1902, about 5,448 square miles were affected. The maximum daily average number relieved was 26,051, 14,426 being gratuitously relieved. The death rate was 26.88 per mille.

1905-1906: Famine occurred again in 1905-1906. Out of the total area of 6,586 square miles, 5,913 were affected. Relief works were opened in February and were continued till 8th September 1906. Gratuitous relief was given from December 1905 to October 1906, the daily average number relieved being 2,267 village servants and 3,773 decrepits. There was no epidemic disease on the works and the death-rate remained normal. The percentage proportion of sexes and children on relief works was 42 males, 46 females and 18 children. The table No. 23 gives details regarding relief given to persons in the district during the famines of 1896-97, 1899 to 1902 and 1905-1906.

1911-12: During the ten years from 1910-11 to 1920-21, the district was affected with famine four times. In 1911-12 no relief work was opened as labourers were required by the Irrigation Department for canal-works in the northern part of the district. The Collector organized a charitable relief fund and collected a sum of Rs. 7,739-12-0. A Central Famine Fund was also started at Bombay and this district received an allotment of Rs. 15,000 from it.

TABLE No. 23—FAMINES OF 1896-97, 1899-1902 AND 1905-06

Particulars

1896-97 Number

1899-1900 Number

1900-1901 Number

1901-1902 Number

1905-1906 (December to October) Number

Total daily average number of persons relieved during the year.

65,564

141,475

84,382

18,233

11,845

Mortality

        

Normal

32,208

30,287

30,287

30,287

27,303

Number of deaths over normal.

8,861

28,400

--

--

--

Total deaths occurred during the year.

41,069

58,687

25,745

22,521

26,091

Relief works pertaining to

        

Canals, channels or drainage.

2

5

2

--

--

Irrigation tanks

3

--

--

--

2

Roads

22

28

13

6

2

Village tanks

--

4

--

--

2

Poor-houses

8

3

--

--

--

Loss of cattle

1,51,457

1,57,774

3,929

--

N.A.

Expenditure (Rupees)—

         

By Government

26,05,276

67,69,258

27,50,806

6,22,883

94,507—Indirect.

--

--

--

--

2,88,292—Direct.

From local, municipal and charitable funds.

2,93,346

--

6,59,632

--

45,174

Advances and remissions granted (Rupees)—

        

Tagavi advances

8,92,504

--

27,06,783

--

5,35,104

Remissions of land revenue

--

--

24,28,785

--

1,28,450

Remissions of tagavi advances

--

--

5,44,148

--

151

N. A.=Not available.

1912-13: During this year six test works were opened and about Rs. 16,600 were spent for improving the water-supply in the district.

1918-19: This was a year of severe famine. Cactus fodder was used on a large scale. Cactus depots were also opened. In 629 villages cattle were fed on cactus. Five relief works were opened. Donations from several charitable funds were obtained and distributed to the needy. Twenty-two cheap grain shops were also opened.

1920-21: In 1920-21, Rs. 38,000 out of the grants of Rs. 55,000 were spent on improving water-supply. Three relief works and eleven test works were opened. Rs. 1,49,998 were spent by the District Famine Fund Committee. A scheme of famine fodder reserve was also undertaken and money for purchasing kadbi was financed by the famine fund committee. The table No. 24 gives information regarding measures undertaken to control the famines between 1911-12 and 1920-21.

TABLE No. 24—FAMINES OF 1911-12 TO 1920-21

Particulars

1911-12

1912-13

1918-1919

1920-21

Total daily average number of persons relieved during the year.

7,319

12,765

27,223

31,067

Mortality

       

Normal

26,990

23,599

27,294

N.A.

Number of deaths over normal.

11,522

Nil

15,703

--

Total deaths during the year.

38,512

23,599

42,997

22,368

Relief works pertaining to

       

Canals, channels or drainage

--

6 test works

1 canal of 11 miles.

--

Irrigation tanks

--

1

1

1

Roads

--

5

5 unmetalled roads and 3 metal breaking works. One embankment of Belapur-Shevgaon Railway of 26 miles.

--

Poor-houses

Nil

11

12

12

Loss of cattle

N.A.

48,394

55,527

72,092

Expenditure (Rupees)—

       

By Government

18,184

92,210

12,06,604

16,08,644

From local municipal or charitable funds

15,000

16,632

2,69,575

4,12,236

Advances and remissions

       

granted (Rupees)—

       

Tagavi advances

1,54,329

3,59,100

27,11,800

22,56,373

Remissions of land revenue

2,41,639

82,836

Nil

71,319

Remissions of tagavi advances

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

N. A.=Not available.

1923-24 to 1928-29: Owing to partial failure of crops scarcity prevailed in Ahmadnagar, Rahuri, Sangamner, Kopargaon, Shevgaon, Karjat, Shrigonda and Parner talukas. Besides the suspension of land revenue and tagai dues, the following measures were adopted for alleviation of distress in the scarcity tract The expenditure on these measures was as follows: —

Gratuitous relief to the infirm

Dole to inferior village servants

Extra remuneration to Patils

Tagai

Rs.

Rs.

Rs.

Rs.

678

2,764

737

7,337

In the following year the out-turn of kharif crops was poor due to a continued break in rains in August and in the first half of September. The break in rains during October and November affected the rabi crops. However, in six villages only the annewari was less than six annas. The relief measures such as distribution of dole to the infirm and to the inferior village servants, bonus to Patils etc., were continued in this year also. The amount spent on these items was Rs. 3,777. Special operations for the storage of fodder as famine preventive measure were undertaken in the district by way of a loan to the District Local Board. The quantity of kadbi stored in the district was 1,48,50,942 lbs. Another measure undertaken for famine prevention was the selection of sites by a special officer for sinking of irrigation wells. This work was started first in the Shrigonda taluka.

The season of 1925-26 was bad and actually some famine relief had to be started in the affected part of the district. In the Sangamner taluka except the pathar portion, the rain was quite inadequate for sowing in June and July. Sowing was done late in August though the rain was insufficient even then. The crops however failed. In Nevasa and Karjat talukas there was a long break and hence the annewari did not exceed six annas. There were practically no kharif crops owing to scanty rainfall in Kopargaon, Shrigonda and Rahuri talukas. The rabi crops also suffered to some extent due to insufficiency of rains. The expenditure incurred on the relief measures such as dole to decrepits and inferior village servants and bonus to Patils amounted to Rs. 9,335. Besides, the quantity of kadbi stored and the expenditure incurred in the district were 1,22,91,461 lbs. and Rs. 1,65,883, respectively.

In 1926-27, Nevasa, Rahuri, Ahmadnagar and Parner talukas suffered heavily for want of post-September rains with the result that out of 494 villlages in these four talukas 235 villages had only an out-turn of four annas and under, and 122 villages between four and six annas. In the remaining parts of the district the rabi crops were more or less a failure. The amount spent on dole to decrepits and inferior village servants and bonus to Patils was Rs. 38,845.

In 1928-29, the season was good and would have yielded excellent results but for the frost of February which affected some rabi crops and bagait crops, especially the sugar-cane in Kopargaon and Rahuri talukas. Liberal suspensions and remissions of land revenue and irrigation dues were sanctioned for the affected areas in the district.

1936-37 to 1946-47: The season of 1936-37 was far from being a normal one. The rainfall in June was scanty throughout the district except Akola and Nevasa talukas. It was particularly deficient in Parner, Shrigonda, Rahuri and Pathardi talukas. The kharif crops could not, therefore, be sown as usual. There was practically no rain in July and August. Rain fell in September, but it was not of much use to the kharif crops as they had already withered away. The November rain was beneficial to rabi crops, but for want of more rains they either failed or yielded very little produce. Scarcity was, therefore, declared in the non-irrigated tracts of the district. Relief was given on a wide scale by way of gratuitous relief to the decrepits, dole to the inferior village servants and additional remuneration to the Patils. The trustees of the Ahmadnagar Famine Fund rendered valuable help by purchasing kadbi and selling it to the agriculturists on the tagai system. The Bombay Presidency Permanent Famine Relief Fund Committee sanctioned Rs. 1,00,000 for relief of distress.

Scarcity conditions in the non-irrigated tracts of the district continued till October 31, 1937 except in a few villages in Nevasa taluka where they continued till December 31, 1937. By January 1. 1938, normal conditions prevailed in the district.

In the following year, in Sangamner taluka there were heavy rains during the months of September and October which resulted in floods. The villages on the bank of the river Pravara suffered loss to a great extent.

Owing to insufficient rains scarcity of fodder was felt in 1939-40 in Shrigonda, Parner and Pathardi talukas. A great quantity of grass was imported from the forest areas. Restrictions were also imposed on the export of fodder through railways. Scarcity works consisting of metal-breaking and of construction of the Nirgudi approach road on Domari-Amalner road in Jamkhed taluka were opened. There was a violent hail-storm in Ahmadnagar, Shevgaon and Parner talukas in December and January, 1940-41. It caused heavy damage to the standing crop.

Due to the absence of opportune and insufficient rainfall, the rabi crops particularly in the southern division of the district failed. Government, therefore, declared scarcity in Ahmadnagar, Shrigonda, Parner, Shevgaon, Pathardi, Jamkhed and Karjat talukas. To relieve the situation the following measures were adopted: —

(a) Grain doles to decrepits and inferior village servants in villages under full suspension were given. This relief was extended to villages varying from 12 to 29 under half suspension in Karjat mahal on 17th May 1942.

(b) Twelve scarcity works under the supervision of the District Local Board and one under that of the Public Works Department were started. The number of persons on works and on doles rose to 1,919 and 2,015, respectively, in June 1942.

(c) Kadbi was purchased out of the amount of the District Relief Trust Fund, Ahmadnagar, at different places in the affected areas and was given to the agriculturists in the form of tagai. The amount so advanced was Rs. 12,500. Tagai loans were also granted on a liberal scale.

(d) Measures for the supply of water were taken. Water-servers were appointed for scheduled classes in the areas in which genuine complaints were received.

Though there had been enough rain at the time of rabi sowing in 1945-46, subsequent drought affected the growth of rabi jowar, the out-turn of which was below four annas and was used as fodder. The rainfall in the southern part of this district was below normal. Due to insufficiency of rains in the southern part the yield of the kharif as well as rabi crops in general was unsatisfactory. Owing to failure of rains scarcity conditions prevailed in 887 villages out of 1,343 villages in the district. Accordingly Government had declared scarcity in these villages in 1946.

The relief measures adopted in the district were as under: —

(a) Gratuitous relief in the form of grain dole at 2 seers of food-grains per head per week and also some relief in cash was given to the infirm, decrepit and helpless persons. Cash dole was also sanctioned to the low-paid Patils whose remuneration including annual income was less than Rs. 180 per annum. Some articles of food, cereals, pulses, etc., were freely distributed.

(b) Milk prepared from the milk powder and vitamin A and D tablets were freely distributed at milk-centres started in the scarcity areas. The Central Famine Relief Committee, Bombay, also distributed clothes free of charge to destitutes in the district. Two Mobile Health Units were also employed in the district to visit the scarcity-affected villages with a view to detect malnutrition and to take remedial measures against epidemics etc.

(c) Scarcity works including two tank works, 13 bunding works and 8 road works were undertaken.

(d) The most important problem of the scarcity area in the district was the shortage of drinking water supply both for human beings as well as animals. Government, therefore, spent an amount of Rs. 26,629 on the construction of new wells, repairs to existing wells etc.

In the southern part of the district which was one of the areas worst affected, scarcity conditions existed from February 1946 till the end of January 1947. The excessive rains in November 1946 also caused serious damage to the standing wheat crop in all parts of the district. Doles in the form of grain and cash were distributed to the inferior village servants, disabled persons etc. The average number of disabled persons and inferior village servants on dole per day was 2,021 and 847, respectively. The total expenditure incurred on account of distribution of doles during 1946-47 amounted to Rs. 2,17,683.

Scarcity works, viz., construction of Belwandi-Deodhaithan road and of Parner tank were started by the Public Works Department. These works were completed by the end of January 1947. Bunding schemes were also undertaken by the Land Improvement Department in Ahmadnagar, Karjat, Shrigonda and Jamkhed talukas. These works were completed by December 31, 1946. The average number of labourers employed on scarcity works per day was 869. Clothes and food articles were also freely distributed to scarcity-affected persons. Two mobile health units carried remedial measures against epidemics. To improve the conditions of water scarcity Government spent an amount of Rs. 27,377 on the construction of new wells, repairs to existing wells, removal of silt, etc.

In 1953-54, rainfall was inadequate in the Ahmadnagar, Parner and Shrigonda talukas of the district, for the growth of rabi crops as a result of which rabi crops withered and scarcity was declared in 167 villages of the above-mentioned talukas.

Relief works including construction of roads, excavation and repairs to tanks and bunding were opened in these areas. The expenditure on these works amounted to Rs. 8,30,053. Gratuitous relief was also granted in the form of doles where necessary. The amount spent on this account was Rs. 43,907. Relief was also given to the agriculturists in the scarcity-affected areas in the form of remissions and suspensions of land revenue, the amounts being Rs. 2,36,881 and Rs. 24,72,513, respectively.

In the following year either scarcity or conditions akin to scarcity prevailed only in nine villages of Shrigonda taluka due to the absence of rains after October which adversely affected the standing rabi crops. Scarcity works including construction of roads, excavation and repairs to tanks, etc., were undertaken. Rs. 25,342 were spent on gratuitous relief. Besides, the remissions and suspensions of land revenue were Rs. 1,44,719 and Rs. 3,77,119, respectively.

TOP