Monsoon Raga

Updated: Sep 30 2003, 05:30am hrs
The south-west monsoon is retreating from India after having showered plentiful rain on its parched countryside. The prospects are for a strong rebound in agricultural growth after last years severe drought conditions. With cumulative rainfall being two per cent more than the long term average of 88 mm, the monsoons performance should be a source of satisfaction to the India Meteorological Department: In April, it had predicted that total rainfall would be 96 per cent of the long term average, which in July was revised to 98 per cent with an error margin of plus or minus four per cent. While that is the good news, the abundant rainfall has been unevenly distributed spatially as Kerala, north and south interior Karnataka received deficient rain. This is not a good augury for river disputes that have festered between neighbouring states. Tamilnadu may have received eight per cent more rain than normal, but that is no guarantee that its problems with the upper riparian state of Karnataka would recede on sharing Cauvery waters. The bad news really is the prospect of a flare-up between Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on sharing Krishna waters.

But the rain gods have been munificent elsewhere, raising the prospect of bumper kharif and rabi crops. Heavy rains in July followed by a gradual slowing helps the kharif or summer crop to mature and strengthen expectations of a harvest of plenty. The benefits of all this are expected to be witnessed during the current festival season, which also coincides with the harvesting season and there is more purchasing power in the hands of farmers. The recharge of soil moisture clears the ground for a good rabi crop as well although this is less rain-dependant than the summer crop. The prosperous grainbelt of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh which produce much of Indias foodgrain surpluses depend mainly on canal irrigation. Clearly, a good kharif and rabi crop makes the overall arithmetic of GDP growth appear more respectable. According to a columnist of this newspaper, Saumitra Chaudhuri, growth of up to 9 per cent is not beyond the feasible. Even the Reserve Bank of India is expected to revise its earlier growth forecast upwards in its busy season credit policy in October. In terms of quarterly growth, however, these good tidings may not be reflected in first quarter GDP growth this fiscal but only in the remaining quarters. Of course, not all of this can be attributed to the monsoon, but there is no doubt that a feel-good factor is back in the air.