New Delhi: The spectre of drought looms large over several parts of the country this year as predictions of poor monsoon gain ground, raising fears of a fall in output of food crops and difficulties on water and power fronts even as the Centre coordinates with the states on tackling the situation.
Vast swathes of farm land covering several lakhs of hectares in states like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka have not seen any sowing this season as they brace for drought-like situation, according to reports compiled by PTI bureaux across the country.
Rains so far have been deficient in the country as a whole by 43 per cent, according to the Met department.
Officials across states are still chary of coming out with likely fall in production because they hope monsoon will stage a late revival and make up for shortage in sowing areas.
Already reports of deficient monsoon have led to a spike in prices of food articles, vegetables and fruits. The Centre has sought to play down the fears and is planning a slew of measures like diesel and seed subsidy for farmers if states declare drought.
On the other hand, it has also announced a series of measures like amending the Essential Commodities Act to take deterrent steps against hoarding and black marketing.
Faced with the challenge just immediately after taking over, the new government at the Centre, in co-ordination with states, has put in place a contingency plan that will target 500 major producing districts, preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.
"Monsoon has just started, it is a late start and it is too early to create any panic," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said last week.
Deficit rains have also impacted water storage level across the country besides sowing operations. Reservoirs in 12 states, including Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, have reported lower water levels now compared to the position at this time in the last year, according to Central Water Commission.
Adopting a cautious approach, the Indian Meteorological Department has projected a below-normal monsoon at 93 per cent of the long period average. However, private weather forecaster Skymet has come out with a more serious picture.
There is a major possibility of the country facing drought this year, with the chances being as high as 80 per cent in north west India, says Skymet.