When the Director General, Indian Meteorological Department, L S Rathore announced the forecast for the monsoon for August and September on Friday morning, there was very little good news. He said that rainfall deficiency till July-end was 19 per cent. Worse, the forecast for August and September was not encouraging. Combined rainfall for the next two months is estimated at 91 per cent.
For Ram Baksh, a farmer from Rajasthan, the Met department was simply putting figures to what he already knew. His drying bajra crop was proof of rain failing him this year as the country stares at a deficient monsoon.
Ram Baksh, who has sown bajra in his field says, "If it doesn't rain in the next 10 days, my bajra crop will wither and die. In fact it's already drying up. I've now given up on bajra, I may try to sow guar, but the seeds are going for Rs 300 a kilo, which is unaffordable."
Ram Baksh's anxiety reflected across the country some states facing a rain deficiency of over 60 per cent.
States have appealed to the Centre for immediate drought relief and even started emergency measures to tackle the crisis. The Union Agriculture Minister who has visited Maharashtra, Karnataka and is now in Gujarat has assured the Centre's help.
He said, "We also agree that drought affected people should be given employment. We have had a discussion around this. Things needing immediate attention will be decided in some days."
The immediate impact is on pulses and coarse cereals but a poor monsoon will also sharply impact the drinking water scenario in states.
The kharif production is likely to be affected which will have a domino effect on not just agricultural production but also the farmers' purchasing power. Even increasing the burden on the government to provide alternative livelihood options to farmers.
It also threatens India's growth story as the planning commission has already indicated that a bad monsoon could bring down growth figures to six per cent.
Though the government says there will be no shortage of food grain, for farmers whose fields lie parched before them the only hope still continues to be the sky above.