KHERIKHUMMAR: India’s monsoon rains that lash the country each summer arrived late and have been feeble this year, leading to hardship for hundreds of millions of farmers like 61-year-old Rameshwar Dayal.
The much-romanticised annual downpour that normally sweeps in at the start of June in the far south of the country is a lifeline for him and about two thirds of the 1.2-billion population who depend on agriculture for their incomes.
But the rains have been so poor that some farmers have decided not to sow crops, spelling more bad news for a slowing economy buffeted by its worst power crisis this week following massive blackouts.
“My fields are completely dry. There have been no rains and I have no artificial irrigation facility to be able to grow food grains,” Dayal told from his village, Kherikhummar, in the northern state of Haryana.
Haryana, along with neighbouring Punjab state, is known as the “bread basket” of India, the source of over 60 percent of food grains such as wheat, maize, rice and pulses that are grown annually.
It has been one of the worst affected this year with 65 percent less rain than the long-term average, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in New Delhi.
Nation-wide, the monsoon has been more than 20 percent below its average, sparking fears of drought among farmers who remember vividly the failure of 2009, when India suffered its worst drought in nearly four decades.
Another deficient year would cause more harm to India’s slowing economy, which grew at its slowest pace in nine years in the first quarter of the year.
Drought would also further spur rising global food prices. India is the world’s biggest producer of pulses and second-biggest producer of rice, sugar and tea.