With the southwest monsoon running late, the country faces a 38% current rainfall deficit, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
The IMD said the country, as a whole, received 70.9 mm rainfall so far this monsoon season, whereas the long period average is 114.2 mm. This leaves a shortfall of 38%.
The rain deficit has depleted reservoirs, besides delaying sowing of summer foodgrain crops. Parts of central and peninsular India are staring at a drought for the second successive year.
Farmers’ groups are demanding that the government declare drought in affected areas without waiting till the end of the monsoon, so that relief measures can begin this month. “There must not be any delay in the declaration of drought. Instead of waiting for the end of the monsoon, drought must be declared in all those districts where sowing has been severely affected owing to 50% or greater deficit in June,” said the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, a platform of over 200 farmers’ groups.
Out of 36 meteorological divisions, only six divisions have received normal rainfall or more. In terms of districts; 47% face large deficiencies (at least 60% below normal) or no rainfall at all. In total, almost 80% of districts face a rainfall deficit of at least 20% below normal. The Vidarbha region, with an 89% monsoon deficit, is worst affected. Regions like Marathwada and Madhya Maharashtra are also facing drought-like situations, especially as they faced deficits in pre-monsoon rainfall as well.
According to the Central Water Commission (CWC), 80% of the country’s 91 major reservoirs have below-normal storage. In fact, 11 reservoirs have no water at all.
Summer or kharif sowing is lagging behind as a result of the tardy monsoon, with just over half of the area usually sown with foodgrain crops covered so far. Out of almost 32 lakh hectares that have usually been sown by foodgrains by this time, farmers have only planted 17 lakh hectares so far. Since this is early in the season, the gap is expected to close if the monsoon picks up steam.
The biggest delays are in pulses and oilseeds, which are dryland crops completely dependent on monsoon rains. Rice, which is usually sown in irrigated land, is only slightly slower than usual. Sugarcane, a water-guzzling cash crop, has actually been sown on a larger amount of land than usual.
The AIKSCC has also demanded that the Central norms for crop loss compensation (input subsidy) must be revised to at least ₹10,000 per acre for un-irrigated land and proportionately higher amounts for irrigated land and horticultural crops.
Crop insurance must be paid in full and in a timely manner, while the RBI must ensure that farmers are not denied credit due to impending drought, it said. The farmers’ groups called on the government to extend the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) from 100 to 150 days of work in drought-affected areas.