Rahman's plight is shared by thousands of marginal farmers all over western Uttar Pradesh who have been affected by one of the worst droughts in recent years. Unlike his brethren in the conventionally drought-prone states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh who have faced severe dry spells in the past, the farming community in rain-surplus Uttar Pradesh is ill-prepared to handle a prolonged dry spell. "Drought never occurs in this part of the state. We do not even know what to do with our crops in such a situation. We are not at all prepared," says Mahender, a marginal farmer.
There is a sense of disbelief among farmers as they come to terms with the drought. The farmers of western UP like to hear their land being called "Harit (Green) Pradesh", as Union agriculture minister Ajit Singh likes to describe it. It is one of India's most agriculturally-rich regions. The monsoon is taken for granted. And not without reason. "There have been very rare occasions in the past when it did not rain enough. But this time it just didn't rain. Not a single drop fell from the skies. This has never happened," says 67-year-old Angan Lal of Bitri Chainpur village, Bareilly. From Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Amroha to Rampur, Badaun, Etah and Aligarh, it's the same story everywhere.