Modi govt prepared as weak monsoon stokes drought-like conditions

It seems that the El Nino has already started showing some signs as India has received 45 per cent lesser rainfall than what was expected in its first spell.

According to the Meteorological Department, the country has received 43.4 mm of rainfall as compared to normal rain of 78.8 mm from June 1 to June 17. As per reports, Northwest India is the worst hit receiving only 13.6 mm as compared to 28.7 mm, which is 53 per cent less than the normal rainfall.

Central India received 31.7 mm, which is 52 per cent less than the normal rainfall of 66.2 mm. Similar is the case with east and Northeast India. It received 100.1 mm of rainfall as compared normal rainfall of 191.2 mm, which is 27 per cent less.

"The monsoon season rainfall for the country as a whole between June and September is likely to be below normal at 93 per cent of the long period average with a model error of plus/minus four per cent," Minister of State for Science and Technology Jitendra Singh had said earlier this month. In April, the MeT had predicted a below normal monsoon at 95 per cent.

The less rainfall is being attributed to El Nino condition, whose chances of occurrence are as high as 70 per cent. This condition is expected to get worse, because of the El Nino weather phenomenon as it relates to periods of low rainfall in India and will be at its peak between July and September.

With more than 80 per cent of India getting limited rain, delayed sowing may lead to a decline in crop areas and yield. An estimated 833 million people out of the 1.2 billion populations depend on agriculture for their livelihood and the sector accounts for 14 per cent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP).

As 55 per cent of crop land is rain dependent, low rainfall will definitely affect the farmers and crops which will threaten to push up food prices in India. Our country has recently experienced a spike in the prices of fodder, animal feed, onion and potatoes. With the situation of rainfall getting worse, a proper strategy has to be in place to prevent the further consequences.

Plans of the Government so far: The Prime Minister held a meeting with the cabinet colleagues to review the progress of monsoon and steps taken to contain inflation where he said that adequate water, power and seed supply should be ensured to the farmers so that the production is not affected due to scant rainfall.

The Ministry of Agriculture has prepared a contingency plan for more than 500 districts in the country which includes move to help farmers with compensations such as subsidised diesel and cheaper loans. Both the Centre and the State Governments have also been asked by the Prime Minister to proactively mount a coordinated effort in implementing the advance action plan for the monsoon.

The Prime Minister has also said that if necessary, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) will be used to generate rural employment. The States expected to be most affected by the weak monsoon are Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

An advisory has been sent to State Governments on the need for drought preparedness. Next week, a two-day meeting of State officials has also been called to discuss the fallout of scanty rains by the Ministry. As compared to the present Government, the preceding dispensations had never made any such plans before hand to tackle the problems of deficient rains which majorly affect India’s farm sector.

This sector heavily depends on the monsoon rains and contributes nearly 14 per cent to the GDP and employs nearly half of India's working population.

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