The fear of drought looms large with the Meteorological department projecting monsoon to be below normal this year. Forecasting the monsoon for this year to be “deficient”, the Met department, on Tuesday morning, revised it down to 88 per cent Long Period Average (LPA) to earlier anticipated 93 per cent.
The department further claimed that the north-west region of the country will be hit the most. Addressing the press, Union Minister for Earth Sciences Harsh Vardhan said, “I have to say this with a heavy heart that as per our revised forecast, India will receive 88 per cent of rainfall of the LPA”.
Earlier in April, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) had forecasted that monsoon rains would be 93 percent of the average. Even that was categorised as “below normal”. And now, with the revised projection falling to 88 percent, the season is categorised as “deficient”.
“We have been working to ensure that the forecast is right. But this time let’s pray to God that the revised forecast does not come true,” Union minister Harsh Vardhan added.
Anticipating the repeat of a weak monsoon which was witnessed last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his last cabinet meeting, had even asked different ministries and departments to gear up for an exigency.
The region expected to receive deficient rainfall will be north-west belt that includes Delhi NCR, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. As per the latest forecast, they will be receiving around 85 per cent of rainfall of the LPA. The region had received lesser rainfall last year as well.
The projection of low rainfall, which may be attributed to the El-Nino phenomena, is likely to trigger fears about drought situation in some parts of the country.
However, the worst hit will be the farming community. This is bad news for the farmers who are already facing acute agrarian crises due to the crop failure and unseasonal rains this year post the winter season. Drought fear has also sparked off an eventuality of lesser crop output. The timely onset of the south-west monsoon is crucial for sowing of kharif (summer) crops such as paddy and a deficit in rainfall may hit the rice output.
Agriculture, which employs about 60 per cent of the country’s population, is heavily dependent on the monsoon as only 40 per cent of the cultivable area is under irrigation.
Last year, the country had received 12 per cent less rains, which had severely hit the production of grains, cotton and oilseeds. Due to poor monsoon, agriculture growth stood at a shockingly meagre 0.2 per cent in the 2014-15 fiscal.
According to the government’s estimate, total foodgrain production has declined to 251.12 million tonnes in the 2014-15 crop year (July-June) from a record production of 265.04 million tonnes the previous year 2013-2014.
(With inputs from the PTI)