Now, PMO rings alarm bells on monsoon
As the southwest monsoon continues to play truant, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) today confirmed that rainfall was likely to be below normal this season, directing all ministries and departments to coordinate with state governments and to monitor the situation weekly.
The PMO also directed a careful watch on the intensity and spread of rainfall over the next week or so, especially in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna had said on Saturday that if rains do not come in significant quantities by this week, then Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat will join Karnataka and Maharashtra that already face drought-like conditions.
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“The government is in full readiness to address any situation that may arise due to any rainfall anomalies," the PMO statement said.
Explaining: “The India Meteorological Department's second-stage forecast on June 22 predicted rainfall over the whole monsoon season to be normal at 96 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA), with model error of ±4 per cent, but this is now reportedly likely to be around the lower end of the range."
The PMO also noted an overall rainfall deficiency of 22 per cent till date could be misleading, since the unevenness of distribution and periodicity of rain were also factors to be taken into account.
Assessing the monsoon’s progress so far, the PMO said there had been a reduction of around eight million hectares in the crop area sown, compared to last year. “While the reduction in area sown in the case of rice could be covered over time, the area reduction in coarse cereals is likely to persist," it said.
On the water level in the country’s 84 major reservoirs across the country, the PMO said the ministry of water resources had indicted there should be no real cause for concern. Reservoirs, it said, were now getting filled with heavy rain in the foothills of the Himalayas, the northeast and parts of southern India.
Detailing the steps being taken to face any drought-like conditions, PMO said that the contingency plan developed by the department of agriculture and shared with the states will be rolled out in the areas which continue to receive low rainfall.
It also constituted an inter-ministerial group under the secretary, department of agriculture and cooperation to review the situation on a weekly basis.
To ensure that there is no drinking water shortage in the event of low rains, the ministry of drinking water and sanitation will henceforth be monitoring the status of the affected habitations on a weekly basis, rather than on a fortnightly basis as is being done at present.
The PMO said that the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has been asked to ensure availability of diesel in the States, especially in North West India.
To ensure that farm labour has adequate work in hand, the windows of absorbing more demand under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have been kept ready for states.
The statement said that the department of consumer affairs is also readying a scheme to distribute cheap pulses in case prices rise unusually in the retail markets.
The PMO said that adequate advisories have been issued to states to deal with shortage of fodder. “The option to increase fodder availability under the Joint Forest Management Programme will be explored by the environment ministry," the statement said.
In Assam, which is affected by flood, seeds of submergence tolerant varieties are being provided.
Similarly, for flood prone North Bihar and West Bengal, sufficient seeds are available.
The PMO said that states have been advised to phase out the release of reservoir water for irrigation in a way that in the event of less rainfall, further demand can be met.
“Sufficient funds to the tune of Rs 4,524 crore is currently available under the National Disaster Relief Fund," the statement said.