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Spectre of a draught

Spectre of a draught
Rains beget rains. Or that is what the weatherman would tell us. But this year it is not so. Rains have been sporadic, in some areas of the country sparse and in some rather disappointing. The overall situation is unhappy if not gloomy and the entire country and specially the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre are staring at a spectre: the spectre of a draught, which will have consequences for agriculture and the economy. As if the general climate of policy paralysis, economic slowdown, tiffs with goverments at various states, corruption controversies, quips and taunts from Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev and a deteriorating inflation scenario were not enough. A draught will mean more pressure on certain commodities and hence a trigger for inflation. A draught will mean further slowing down of the economy. A draught will mean more challenges for the government. In India, good or bad monsoons have made and unmade governments. And the the UPA government is no exception. It fears the worst now and its dwindling fortunes show little reversals as it slowly but surely hurtles towards the inevitable electoral face-off in 2014. Due to bad-to-medium rain in July, rainfall deficiency is something between 15 to 20 per cent on average in parts of Karnataka, Gujarat and  Kerala. When it looked in August that the rainfall was going to catch up with the usual rate and the deficiency was going to decrease, the  India Meteorological Department (IMD) warned of a possible El-Nino situation in September, which will cause a drying of the climate, only worsening the overall deficiency. After remaining subdued till July, rains gained pace in the first week of August, helping agricultural sowing and farming in the past few days. According to weather officials, it rained because of the movement of a pulse of cloud – the Madden-Julian Oscillation phenomenon that has moved eastwards from western Pacific, favouring rainfall. But this favourable phenomenon will make way for El-Nino and the weather will turn dry again.

Keeping in mind the possibility that a poor monsoon may get even worse, the government should do everything in its power to take stock of the situation, address it as required bring into activity its departments which manage disasters like draught. It should not let commodity prices rise, or allow hoarding and it should be ready for all eventualities. At least in this case it will not have the alibi that it hasn’t been warned. 
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