A number of central Indian states are likely to be classified as 'drought-affected' when the southwest monsoon ends in September. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan may be the worst hit. India Meteorological Department (IMD) data shows that rainfall across the country between June 1 and July 14 is 41 per cent less than normal.
The deficit is as high as 70 per cent in central and northwestern regions in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Even with good showers in the remaining period of the monsoon, the deficit in these regions are certain to remain in excess of 10 per cent.
"A number of sub-divisions in these states will end up having a deficit in excess of 10 per cent of the long-period average, and this will qualify as a meteorological drought", said G P Sharma of Skymet, a private weather forecaster.
The drought may not be national since good rains in the period between now and September 30 can bridge the deficit to less than 10 per cent at the national level.
The meteorological drought in all these states will not end in an agricultural drought. States like Punjab and Haryana, which are the granary of India, have adequate alternate sources of irrigation and, therefore, the impact on agriculture may be minimal.
So far, the monsoon has behaved somewhat truant this year and left most meteorological agencies speculating its track and course during the four-month-long period. IMD expects the monsoon to revive in the days to come. There is no official word from the government agency on the possibility of a drought.
This year, the monsoon arrived on June 6, according to the IMD. The onset of the southwest monsoon in Kerala signals the arrival of monsoon over the Indian subcontinent. The normal date for onset of monsoon is June 1, which was also the date it arrived last year.
The IMD has scaled down its monsoon forecast from 95 per cent (announced in April) of the long-period average (LPA) to 93 per cent. LPA is the average rainfall received over a period of last 50 years. Skymet has also revised its forecast from 94 to 91 per cent of LPA.
Sowing of most kharif crops barring paddy is significantly lower than the corresponding area last year. According to agriculture ministry data, a total of 25.6 million hectare area has been down as on July 12, half of the corresponding area of 51.76 million hectare sown in the corresponding period last year. Most affected is the sowing of crops like pulses, coarse cereals, oilseeds and cotton.