A key driver of Indian economy: Monsoon

Monsoon - A key driver of Indian economy
Monsoon - A key driver of Indian economy

Priyanka Srivastava

India will be receiving “below normal” rainfall this year, as per India Meteorological Department (IMD), prompted by El Nino. This news comes in the wake, when the country is witnessing a farm-crisis triggered by unseasonal rains in March-April this year. The Modi government will find it difficult to keep the prices of essential commodities like Pulses, Oil seeds under check giving rise to food inflation and a cascading effect on the overall economy.

The four month South-West monsoon season, accounts for nearly 75% of the country’s total rainfall and plays a crucial role since about 55-60% of the area sown is still rain-fed. India gets around 53% of its agricultural produce from the Kharif season (June-September) compared to the Rabi season (November-February) where the production is around 47%. The impact of monsoon is also crucial for Rabi crops as it has an impact on the ground water and also reservoirs which are critical for Rabi crops.

India historically is an agrarian economy, though Services Sector has overtaken the Farm Sector in terms of GDP contribution. However, even today, Agriculture Sector contributes 17-20% of GDP and is the largest employer in the country with about 60% of people dependent on it for employment and livelihood. The land use pattern indicates that 49% of land is cultivable which includes wetland agriculture, dry farming areas etc. Since, more than half of the land is rain-fed, timely Monsoon play a crucial role in the food sufficiency & quality life of country. Though alternate forms of irrigation have found way in India, yet agricultural dependency on monsoon is far from insignificant, even today. Therefore, the agricultural calendar of India is mainly governed by Monsoon. Any delay in the time distribution or quantity distribution of the rains may lead to conditions of flood or droughts causing severe effect on agriculture sector. This in turn, leads to cascading effect on the secondary economic sectors, the overall economy, food inflation, resulting into overall quality & cost of living for the general population in India. A weak monsoon this year can lead to a decline in agricultural production. Lower output of pulses and oilseeds will lead to increased imports, increasing the food imports and resulting in fiscal deficit and economy.

Though India is still waking up to the new methodologies applied in other countries yet we are far from good-to-go situation as far as Agricultural Sector is concerned. We need to improve our dependency on monsoon. One way of doing so is through building of more dams and reservoirs. We need to protect our water bodies and increase the ground water table. This is only possible with sustained rain water harvesting. Use of better techniques and equipment could go a long way in helping farmers manage their crop without relying on monsoons. Though the improved irrigation and availability of electricity has reduced this dependence to a small extent-the Hydro-electric (Hydel) power generation, ground water availability and it’s recharge are totally dependent on good monsoon rains.

It is widely agreed that drought is not a disaster but a management risk and therefore many problems created by drought can be mitigated. By applying some innovative steps suggested by scholars and practitioners, agricultural droughts can be reduced:



Forecasting of Weather
There should be accurate & early forecasting of weather to allow farmers and agencies to prepare in a timely manner.
Crop Planning
Crop varieties for dry land areas should be of short duration & drought tolerant which can be harvested within rainfall periods.
Crop Substitution
Traditional crops which are inefficient utilizers of soil moisture, less responsive to external inputs and low yielders, should be substituted by more efficient ones.
Cropping System
Inter-cropping & Multiple Cropping will help in more utilization of resources.
Fertilizer Use
A proper mixture of organic and inorganic fertilizers improves moisture holding capacity of soils and enhances drought tolerance.
Alternate land use
Purpose for which land needs to be used should be appropriately recognized. Some dry lands may be used for pasture management, dry land horticulture, agro-forestry system etc.
Rainwater Management
Water, which is not retained by soil, drains out as surface runoff. This excess runoff water can be harvested in situ by proper land treatment or stored in dug out ponds and supplied for supplemental irrigation.
Groundwater Development
The dug wells and recharge wells can be very easily converted into a form of recharge structure where water received during monsoons can be stored.
Linking of river basins, underground taming of floods
Wherever, a good amount of runoff is available, or if it is made available to those areas which are deficient, it can solve the water shortage problem to a very large extent. Also, efforts should be made to store large quantities of flood waters under the ground and to transport this water to deficit states, for which appropriate technology needs to be developed.
Development of information system at local-level
Strong information systems should be developed at village levels for benefit of farmers, which required decentralization of responsibility and capacity building of people at local level.

The Monsoons are an important weather phenomenon in India. Excessive rainfall often leads to flooding and havoc, while its deficiency has numerous social, economic and environmental implications. In view, that both scenarios adversely affect the country’s life and economy, significant efforts should be made to address the challenges created by uncertain monsoon.

The economic significance of monsoon can be aptly summed up by Pranab Mukherjee’s statement that monsoon is the real finance minister of India. A good monsoon resulting in improved agricultural brings down prices of essential food commodities and reduces their imports overall reducing the food inflation. Further improved rains result in increased hydroelectric production. All these factors initiate positive ripples throughout the economy of India.

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