Tackling drought high on agenda for Modi Government

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Spectre of drought looms
With less than three days to go for NDA Government's maiden budget, the Centre's foremost priority is to tackle the drought like situation which can have a significant impact on the farmers, agricultural produce, GDP. The spectre of drought have already loomed large parts of the country with prediction of weak monsoon due to EL Nino weather phenomenon.

The monsoon has been predicted too weak which has already created an inflationary pressure but the Government is in the hope for the situation to improve later in July and August. The India Meteorological Department has forecasted this year's monsoon to be 93 percent of the long-term average. The monsoon was weak in June, with as much as 91 percent deficient rainfall in parts of Gujarat.

Farmers to be worst effected

It is believed that if drought like situation prevails, farmers in some of the States like Maharashtra will be worst hit due to agrarian crisis. In the past suicide rates of farmers have gone up. In Maharashtra, for instance, the rate is 29.1 suicides per 100,000 farmers (‘Main cultivators'). Which is over 160 per cent higher than that for all Indians excluding farmers. Such gaps exist in other States, too.

Thought the Government assured that it is prepared to deal with any eventuality in case of a shortfall, but giving subsidies to farmers is equally important. Agriculture and allied activities are immensely important not only to the particular sections of people who are engaged in them but it holds the key to many of the Central priorities of the nation, such as food security, rural livelihoods, health, rural-urban balance, environment and addressing climate change. So Government's high priority should be to look after the welfare of farmers.

"Vidharbha region is drought-prone. We will think of all possible measures to help farmers so that they are not forced to commit suicide due to crop failure," Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said recently.

What is Government doing to tackle drought like conditions

As the reports of deficient monsoon have led to a spike in prices of food commodities, vegetables and fruits. The Centre has sought to play down the fears and is planning a slew of measures like diesel and seed subsidy for farmers if States declare drought.

In 2013 Maharashtra hit one of the worst drought in 40 years

Faced with the challenge just immediately after taking over, the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre, in co-ordination with States, has put in place a contingency plan that will target 500 major producing districts, preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

"Monsoon has just started, it is a late start and it is too early to create any panic," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said last week.

On the other hand, it has also announced a series of measures like amending the Essential Commodities Act to take deterrent steps against hoarding and black marketing.

In 2013 Maharashtra hit one of the worst drought in 40 years due to deficit rainfall in the month of June to September, but till now little has been done by the Central and the State Government to tackle another such drought like situation.

Private weather forecaster Skymet have already predicted, shortage of rainfall in several States with a major possibility of the country facing drought this year which can be as high as 80 per cent in north west India.

In the past, droughts have periodically led to major Indian famines, including the Bengal famine of 1770, in which up to one third of the population in affected areas died. Keeping in mind for worst case scenario and hoping for the best, Finance Minister who is hardly days ahead of his maiden budget should frame adequate policies and announce slew of measures to tackle any drought like situation.

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