Thursday, July 30, 2009

Monsoon Magic

The lethargy of monsoon to spread across the Indian Sub Continent in a full fledged manner is not going to instantly shift the vocation of millions engaged in farming. More than 60% of Indian agriculture is rainfed and the cropping pattern is attuned with the rainfall pattern in many agrarian regions. Irrigation as a crucial input in agriculture is overtly understated in practice and policy. Even in the recently proposed budget, a meager allocation of Rs. 1000 crores is been provided when there are more than 400 irrigation projects to be completed, which need a total investment of more than Rs. 200,000 crore.

As per the IMD reports, rains have been 50% below normal from June 1 to July 8 in the northwest, the region with agri prosperous states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh - a worrisome situation, considering the contribution of these states to the nation’s granary. The fears of a possible famine have been quelled by the Union Minister for Agriculture, Sharad Pawar by his assertion of the fact that enough foodgrains are there to meet demand for 13 months.

However, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) in its monthly forecast reported the production fall to the extent of 4.7%, and highly confronted the assurances putforth by Mr. Pawar. The CMIE report and as per general agronomic principles, the high rainfall deficit during June implies a sure fall in kharif crop production during 2009-10. GDP of agriculture and allied sectors has increased consistently since 2003-04 and this impressive performance can come to a halt by the current monsoon vagary in 2009-10 and it may decline upto two per cent as compared to 1.6 per cent increase in 2008-09. Whereas, livestock GDP is expected to increase by four per cent in 2009-10, as per the CMIE report.

The commodity prices have already soared up foreseeing the errant monsoon. The repercussions of the delay in monsoon may not be felt this year, but it is an undeniable fact that their shadow will be cast next year, with a lower yield and higher expectations.

Indian agriculture is overly dependent on the vagaries of nature - whether it is the speculated drought in the food baskets of India or the regular deluge in the states like Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Assam. With no or, little implementation of major watershed programmes and with river rejuvenation/ interlinking projects in limbo, the food production situation in India is facing a grim situation. To compound the matters, the effects of global warming and climate change are increasingly reflected in the yields which have already stagnated and will possibly follow a downward spiral if not addressed adequately.

As stated by MS Swaminathan, our ability to manage the monsoon will determine our ability to reduce hunger and ensure food, water, and livelihood security. So, it becomes all the more imperative to devise plans that will recharge not only the water resources but also the society at large. Instead of the usual short sighted approach for solving the problems at hand, a vision to attain water security is needed especially with the possibility of a rise in sea level and more frequent occurrence of coastal storms and cyclones as a result of the climate change. Preparing for climate change therefore should become an integral part of the planning process for sustainable food, water, and livelihood security.

This year provides an excellent opportunity for initiating a well-planned monsoon management strategy based on the best available scientific tools in rural India. Boosting investment exponentially and according sufficient incentives to the private sector to attract investment are some of these. Private partners can be involved in the development process, so that it would be more inclusive, efficient and substantial. The Weather forecasting system needs to be strengthened so, that daily or, at least regular weather advisories/ inventories can be sent for the dissemination and the necessary action by the farmers. But whatever be the status of preparedness, the Monsoon is all geared to affect the Indian agriculture and economy at whole.

Abid Hussain

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