ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dealing with Monsoon Failure

Besides coping with the drought of 2009, strategies to live with monsoon failure need to be formulated.

The revival of the 2009 south-west monsoon over the past 10 days in many parts of the country comes too late to save the kharif crop in the 246 districts that have been identified as drought-affected. The recent rains may help somewhat in augmenting drinking water supplies, in increasing the availability of fodder and in improving moisture content for a reasonable rabi crop, but the challenge of coping with what is likely to end up as a severe drought is still with us. The 25% deficiency in rainfall as of 26 August is larger than the shortfall in the last three major droughts (1979, 1987 and 2002), when the overall gap was 19%.

Any slack in agricultural production activity first affects agricultural labourers, then producers and ultimately consumers. The response to the failure of the 2009 monsoon should also follow this hierarchy. First, agricultural labourer households need to be provided employment where crop production has been affected. This can be done by relaxing the ceiling on the number of days of employment in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Second, smallholders who are not identified as falling below the poverty line (BPL) should also be allowed to get employment under the NREGS in the drought-hit areas.

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