The government has rolled out the first steps to avert a farm sector crisis amid indications that the Met department is now set to switch to a below-normal rainfall forecast.
The rainfall outlook is expected to be revised from 96% to 92% when a “mid-season review” is presented to the government next week.
The rains — 22% deficient so far — were previously predicted to be normal. Rainfall between 96-104% of 89 cm — a 50-year average — is considered normal.
The GoM on drought has not convened, as farm minister Sharad Pawar and the Congress are yet to resolve a political deadlock.
This has prompted the PMO to step in to protect farmers.
The steps include setting aside 900MW of power for ramping up sowing operations in the grain-basket states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and enhancing diesel supply since farmers will rely on generators to pump groundwater into their fields.
What's more, the government is likely to announce a subsidy on lentils to make them cheaper.
"Declaring a drought — if at all — depends on the extent to which farms are affected," Sailesh Nayak, the earth sciences secretary, told HT. According to meteorological classification, a more than 10% rain deficit in nearly 20-30% of the country qualifies as drought.
The rains, which act as strong check on inflation, are vital for not only the agriculture sector, but also the broader economy. A patchy monsoon could crimp food output and hit farm income, which supports a third of Indians.
Rural spending on most items — from television sets to gold — goes up when adequate rains raise farm output. This aids economic growth.
Rising prices of wheat and pulses - 6% and 20% from a year ago in June - prompted the KV Thomas-led ministry of consumer affairs to ask the Forwards Markets Commission, the commodity futures regulator, to launch anti-speculation steps.