Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monsoon Theatrics

The scene hasn’t been any different from earlier days when one used to describe Indian agriculture as a “gamble with Monsoon”. Even after more than the six decades of independence, we have not made any remarkable achievements in terms of increasing the cultivated area under irrigation.

And the statistics and hypes presented by the Govt. and the concerned ministries seems far from the harsh reality as still more than 60% cultivated area depends on the direct mercy of “Monsoon”, which often used to betray the faith of the farmers and sometimes give a hard angle to their lives.

Monsoon is a highly variable phenomenon, in terms of temporal and spatial difficulties. It is affected by the flow of ocean currents like, El nino and La nina and mostly drifts away alongwith. Meteorological department is also not able to forecast anything substantial about its movement and keeps on guessing its revival, even at the end of July, when almost more than one month period of monsoon has elapsed. Ministry and government runs by the statistics given by Met Dept and projects (im)possible outcomes for the farm production. This season too ministry is in much relaxed mood and is more concentrated towards the storage side, after much hue & cry.

We Indians are die hard optimists and have tonnes of perseverance to keep on waiting for the monsoon to set for taking up the agricultural operations. Not only this applies to farm operations, but it extends even to social obligations and familiar rituals.

Virtually all the expectations of a bountiful agricultural production hinges on the edge of good, sufficient, well distributed rains. Every year govt. promises economic growth and boom only on account of a successful Monsoon and if the rain fails then all the hell will break loose in this sector, everyone from PM, Finance Minister, RBI to Planning Commission will blame the poor performer, farm sector. But do they ponder, what plagues the scene? Do they see the bigger picture that till now we were not able to extend irrigation facilities beyond the green revolution belts? South India and the Western parts are the worst hit and the Eastern counterparts least uses the subsurface sources and are highly dependent on the groundwater resources, which is depleting at unprecedented level.

Till date rainfall had been deficient in parts of Uttar Pradesh, many places in Bihar and Jharkhand and some eastern region, but the Meteorological Department is still optimistic about the total rainfall. Government is confident of its projected farm output even in the case of weak or almost failed monsoon showers in contrast to forecast of good rains by Met Dept which claims that the late rains will not significantly hurt the total output. On the other hand, Flood raged fury in the many parts of the green revolution belts of Punjab and Haryan, not due to rains but by the breach in the Sutluj-Yamuna canal. Many districts have been affected and considerable fear persists that it may lower the rice output and hurt the govt’s projected figures.

During these long years, not a major irrigation project has started, except the Sardar Sarovar. Irrigation projects can be extended wherever possible with due consideration of social, environmental, economic issues and with local people’s involvement. A technological exchange programme with several agriculturally advanced countries in tackling irrigation problems can go a long way especially in the event of Climate change and global warming.

Approaches like, Micro-irrigation, rainfed area based appropriate technologies and schemes should be focused on the neglected dry tracts, which is not less than two third of the total arable holdings. Farmers should be trained and exposed to the rain-fed technologies and promotion and demonstration of contingencies measures and agriculture insurance provisions for the prone regions will surely make the scene better. Breeding seeds for better abiotic resistance, particularly the water deficient and inundated conditions has to be promoted in the network of research institutions and Universities, which can be helpful towards sustaining the production in the years to come in the view of climate change and monsoon drift. Frontier technologies like biotechnology, nanotechnology, water management and all other possible interventions can be utilized to fight the situation of insecurity so that the dependence on the vagaries of the Monsoon can be reduced to the extent possible.

On the policy side, it is astonishing that National Rainfed Area Authority budget is less than the budget allotted for the Bundelkhand area dryland authority, which is proposed in the last budget. So political gimmicks and lip service is not going to serve the cause of the masses anymore, and a bold initiative is urgently awaited for ushering the second green revolution, which can only be ensured in these neglected dry tracts.

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