The monsoon has progressed to cover almost all parts of the country, with it expected to advance into Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and parts of Haryana and Punjab. But even as the monsoon covers northern parts of India ahead of schedule, it continues to be deficient in southern and eastern India.

In its usual paradoxical way, nearly as many parts of India have had excess rainfall as deficient – Jhajjar in Haryana had received 424% rainfall above normal as of the week ending on July 5, according to data from the India Meteorological Department. Bhadohi district between Allahabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh has the highest deficit with 92% less than normal rainfall in that period.

Credit: India Meteorological Department
Credit: India Meteorological Department

In all, 143 districts across the country have received 20% to 59% less rainfall than normal. Twenty districts, mostly in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the easternmost parts of the North East have had rain between 60% to 99% less than usual. On the other hand, 112 districts, mostly in but not limited to Rajasthan, Punjab, and parts of Uttar Pradesh, have had 60% more than normal rainfall.

Worryingly for southern India, parts of which have faced back to back droughts for three years now, the basins of rain fed rivers that originate in the Western Ghats have also had a severe deficit of rain, with the Cauvery and Krishna rivers particularly badly affected. The region at the mouth of the Cauvery has received 43% rain less than normal.

Lack of water in the Cauvery basin has been a particular source of contention for Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in recent years, leading Karnataka to even defy Supreme Court orders to release water downstream, citing severe drinking water shortages for itself. Farmers from the Cauvery delta in Tamil Nadu have also protested as far as Delhi this year for better prices for their crops.

Credit: India Meteorological Department
Credit: India Meteorological Department

Dry spell for farmers

The Met Department had at the beginning of July announced that India had had overall higher than average rainfall in the first month of the monsoon. Since then, there has been an unexpectedly dry spell, particularly in peninsular India, disrupting sowing schedules for farmers across these regions.

Farmers in central and southern India begin sowing crops for the Kharif agricultural season with the first rains. A steady supply of rain after sowing is crucial to ensure the health and growth of these plants. However, with a gap that has already lasted more than a week in parts of the country, farmers are likely to be affected.

Maharashtra has gone as far as to urge farmers to delay sowing – advice that might go unheeded as 84 lakh hectares of land have already come under cultivation, which amounts to 60% of cultivable land. Farmers have already begun to re-sow cotton and soyabean in parts of the state, the Hindustan Times reported.

While the Met Department has said that rainfall will resume over central India by July 14 or 15, farmers are not content.

“The government keeps giving bad information to farmers,” said Raju Shetti, leader of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, referring to the Met Department’s prediction of 98% rain that would arrive on time. He lamented that the department had been unable to predict the frequency or intensity of the monsoon.

“The Prime Minister should cancel two foreign trips and seven or eight large rallies and use that money to send some satellites to track the monsoon,” Shetti said. “Farmers in the United States have data for even the next year. Our farmers are still looking up at the sky for predictions.”