NEW DELHI: A continuous dry spell across 64% area of the country has finally forced the government to scale down the weather office’s forecast of rains at 96% of long-range average towards 92% of the average. “The India Meteorological Department’s second-stage forecast on June 22 predicted rainfall over the whole monsoon season to be normal at 96% of long-period average (LPA) with model error of ±4%, but this is now reportedly likely to be around the lower end of the range,” the prime minister office said in a statement.
The revised forecast from the prime minister office, however, avoided calling the situation a drought, terming it to be a below normal monsoon year according to IMD’s standards.
“For a drought, the monsoon has to be less than 90% of the LPA,” said an IMD official. The grim monsoon situation, which is 22% below the normal past halfway mark prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to direct central ministries and departments to coordinate with state governments to meet any eventuality. An inter-ministerial group headed by the agriculture secretary is monitoring the situation on a weekly basis.
The PMO has come out with a 11-point action plan to mitigate any adverse condition arising out of a weak monsoon.
The statement said that contingency plans have been prepared for every state and there is sufficient supply of seeds of all crops including fodder crops. It said the government has earmarked 4,524 crore under National Disaster Relief Fund to meet any eventuality.
It said adequate reservation for drinking water in reservoirs and unallocated power of 300 mw and diesel have been made available for states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to ensure rice yield. It said the prices of wheat and rice are stable but the prices of sugar, pulses and vegetable are on an upward climb.
“A proposal for an increase in subsidy for supply of pulses through public distribution system to BPL families is being brought before the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution,” it said.
The Prime Minister’s Office also said the shelf of work to absorb additional labour has been kept ready with the states under MGNREGA.
“Any additional requirement for wages under the MGNREGA scheme will be met by the Department of Rural Development. A fund of 12,000 crore has been released to states during the current year,” it said.
The statement said the rainfall deficiency which existed at the end of June has lessened somewhat but the intensity and spread of rainfall over the next week needs to be watched carefully, especially in Karnataka, Maharashtra,Gujaratand Rajasthan.Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Saurashtra and Karnataka have received low rainfall.
On the other hand, the Northeast region, north Bihar and northBengalhave received and are likely to continue to receive heavy rainfall. The overall figure of 22% deficit can be misleading as the unevenness of distribution and periodicity of rainfall are also factors to be taken into account, the statement said.