Rains have been good this year across much of India. With half the monsoon over, countrywide rainfall showed a surplus of 17 per cent. Last year, by contrast, after poor rains in both June and July, there was a deficit of 19 per cent and a drought appeared to be looming; heavy rains in September, however, came to the rescue. Helped by ample rains, this year the area sown for kharif crops is 12 per cent more than for the corresponding period in 2012. But not all parts of the country have shared in the bounty. Rains were below par in the eastern and north-eastern States in June as well as July, and the region as a whole ran up a deficit of 33 per cent for the first half of the monsoon. North-west India too did not fare well last month, although it got more than twice its usual quota of rain during the previous month. The meteorological subdivision of Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi had a deficit of about 41 per cent in its July rainfall and Punjab a shortfall of about 37 per cent. Central and southern India, on the other hand, were showered with surplus rain during both June and July. Indeed, many parts in these regions have already received much of the rain they typically get during the entire season. By the end of July, the meteorological subdivisions of Vidarbha, Kerala as well as Konkan and Goa had got more than 90 per cent of their monsoon rains.
It is almost 20 years since nationwide rainfall in the first half of the monsoon had a surplus of more than 15 per cent. The last time this happened was in 1994, when the country got nearly 24 per cent excess rain by the end of July. Rainfall records for the past 140-odd years show that when the first-half surplus crosses 15 per cent, the monsoon is likely to end with countrywide rainfall that is higher than the long-period average. In 1994, the season ended with a surplus of over 12 per cent. Since then, India has not experienced an ‘excess monsoon’ in which the seasonal rainfall surplus is 10 per cent or more of the long-period average. The India Meteorological Department’s forecast issued in June put a very low probability on that sort of monsoon occurring again this year. It gave the highest probability to a ‘normal’ monsoon (defined as one where any deficit or surplus in the country’s seasonal rainfall remains within four per cent of the long-period average). In a forecast issued recently, the IMD indicated that rains during the second half of the monsoon too were likely to be ‘normal’ (with any surplus or deficit in rainfall across the country during August and September coming within six per cent of the long-period average). For the present, the omens for this monsoon seem propitious.