It’s raining cheer

June 04, 2016 01:31 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:01 pm IST

For the first time in three years, the India Meteorological Department has > projected that the monsoon rains will be above normal . Rainfall during the June to September southwest monsoon season is forecast to be 106 per cent of the long period average, with a margin of error of 4 per cent. Coming as the forecast does after two years of an > acute drought that has turned large swathes of the hinterland into parched dustbowls, and a scorching summer that has sent the mercury soaring past records in many regions, the prospect of abundant rains is obviously cause for cheer. With the lives of more than two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people directly linked to the fortunes of the rural economy, and almost 80 per cent of India’s annual rainfall a product of the southwest monsoon, the import of the IMD’s prediction cannot be overstated. Significantly, the Met department also expects the above-normal rains to be well distributed across the key crop farming areas in the north-west, central and southern peninsular regions, with the likelihood of a shortfall seen only for the north-east. In its April policy statement, the Reserve Bank of India had highlighted the significance of the rains to monetary policy when it said a normal monsoon in 2016 could provide a “favourable supply shock” by strengthening rural demand and augmenting the availability of farm produce that would help moderate inflation. While agriculture and allied economic activities contribute just a little over 15 per cent to overall Gross Value Added, they have a disproportionate impact on rural consumption, as they provide livelihood for almost half of the country’s workforce. So for manufacturers of goods ranging from personal care products to tractors, a bountiful monsoon can potentially deliver a substantial boost to sales. Adequate rainfall, especially in upstream catchment areas, would also help improve electricity supply in States more dependent on hydel-power, such as Karnataka and Kerala.

However, the capricious nature of weather phenomena and the fact that the IMD has a success rate of about 30 per cent in correctly predicting the ‘rainfall range’ over the last 10 years demand that expectations remain well anchored till the actual onset and subsequent advance of the monsoon has been established. The government needs to use this opportunity to strengthen the water retention and storage infrastructure. >In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said work on least five lakh farm ponds and dug wells would be taken up as part of MGNREGA, and it is hoped a fair portion of that has been executed or is set to begin. Given the alarming levels to which groundwater has declined countrywide, the Centre and States need to be more focused on enabling recharge of aquifers and existing water bodies.

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