In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished by the gods by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action forever. There is much in Sisyphus’s story that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will empathise with given the vast multitude of challenges he faces. The impact of the two back-to-back drought years will be severe to say the least. For one, it will severely tarnish the mystique of the “<g data-gr-id="27">acche</g> din” promised by Modi during the run up to this elections. A bad monsoon will exponentially increase the already intense pressure on the government treasury.
Given that a bad monsoon will necessitate a demand for loan-waivers both from TRP hungry opposition parties and from the farmer unions, the Modi government may give in. The poor monsoon- induced drought will also be a litmus test for the present ruling dispensation’s appetite for key agrarian reforms. In this, it will be faced with tough choices like whether to tinker with the minimum support prices(MSP)for rice or not. Last years’ boost was largely attributable to the collapse in aggregate global commodity prices, especially crude oil which gave a significant fillip to the government. <g data-gr-id="39">However</g> quick fixes won’t help this time as the agrarian crisis looks set to worsen.
Though Prime Minister Modi has repeatedly emphasised upon the need of getting the existing bureaucracy to deliver timely results, the collective might of the babus of India has not yet delivered anything promising in the farm sector. In the Financial Year 2015, the government announced a tentative and lucid plan to sell off 15 million tonnes of cereals to soften the impact of food price inflation and reduce the huge cost of FCI’s stocks, However as with most ‘proposed’ government programmes only under 4 million of buffer stock has been sold off in the open market. If the present government is not agile in offloading stocks this time, its ability to control inflation will be hit the same way a lethargic elephant is hit by a runaway train. Little has changed on the ground.
The agriculture ministry is likely to announce the minimum support price (MSP) for key crops over the next fortnight while it has sufficient buffer stocks of pulses. Be that as it may the agriculture ministry headed by Radha Mohan Singh will need to think up some out of the box ideas to curb the onslaught on the farming sector of a deficient monsoon season.
There is however hope on the horizon. In a possible twist in the tale, one of India’s largest private weather forecaster has asserted that the monsoon will be 102% of the 50-year-long period average (LPA). In other words, the monsoons, which account for about 70% of total rainfall in the country, will hopefully be normal. Hope is a good thing. Maybe Sisyphus ultimately managed to roll the boulder up the hill. Who knows?