Monsoon Fails, Hits Farmers

Updated: Dec 29 2002, 05:30am hrs
The farm sector was the victim of the worst drought in the last 100 years due to the failure of the monsoon in 2002.

Effective planning for crop cultivation was not possible as the countrys official weather forecasting agency, the India Meteorological Department (IMD), could not predict the situation in either its long-term or short-term forecasts. This resulted in a sharp decline in agricultural production in the kharif season. Even the crops in the current rabi season are likely to be affected.

The dispute of sharing of Cauvery water among the reparian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala made it to the headlines owing to the monsoon failure. Though the Cauvery River Authority met on different occasions under the chairmanship of the prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the matter still remains unresolved.

With a view to bailing out drought affected farmers, the Centre distorted the minimum support price for paddy, which was increased by Rs 20 per quintal. The Centre also promised to defer loan recovery from the farmers and released money to states under the Calamity Relief Fund. But the measures were not enough to mitigate the farmers sorrows.

The sugar sector threw up another problem, which remains unresolved. The sugar mills went to the courts and got the periodic release mechanism of free sale sugar administered by the Centre dismantled. This led to more offloading of excess sugar in the open market, crashing the prices.

This, in turn, affected the profitability of the mills. The mills resorted to purchase of cane at lower than agreed prices. The mills tussle with the farmers continues. In some cases, farmers burnt their standing cane crops to make way for other crops.