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Is India a Monsoon Economy ?


Is India a Monsoon Economy ?
An agricultural drought has very specific effects on crops and regions, and the rainfall pattern on more important welfare effects like drinking water and employment
Is India a ‘monsoon economy’? Not true any longer. Until the mid-1970s, in half the year’s growth was negative and in the other half the economy grew between 3 percent and 6 percent, giving us the average Hindu growth rate. But since then, we had only two years with a growth of less than 3 percent. It has been argued by Arvind Panagriya that volatility is higher now. Even that is not the complete picture. If you compare the Sixties of the last century with the post mid seventies period volatility is less now.
A meteorological and an agricultural drought are, to an extent, two different issues. An agricultural drought has very specific effects on crops and regions, and the rainfall pattern on more important welfare effects like drinking water and employment. Human welfare is very important and tracking the events and ameliorating policies in a time-bound manner are essential. 

Many weather risk management strategies fit squarely into sustainable agriculture practices and can, therefore, be promoted with several of the programmes and policies targeting environmentally responsible production. Strategies which have paid are:  
·         Shift of the focus from growing water intensive crops in the rainfed areas of the country to the water abundant regions of North East India which have the potential of becoming the food bowl of the country. The successful eastern region plan of the Ministry of agriculture is an example.
·         Changes in cropping patterns and cropping systems, like multiple/mixed cropping, intercropping systems with legume components etc, to suit the local resource and weather conditions. 
·         Introduce ecological farming practices which can maximize the local resource use. We need to ensure increased production of crops with efficient combination of inputs and the least possible wastage of environmental resources. Many of these practices are based on indigenous knowledge and focus on building soil biological productivity.
·        Locally adopt crop varieties especially in saline and flood prone areas, drought prone areas, making suitable selections adopting Participatory Plant Breeding and Participatory Varietal Selection. Agricultural practices and climate synchronization will help to deal with environmental distortions characterized by the Indian agriculture. Bio Technology Plans in a PPP mode with modern ‘Chipping technologies for selective breeding’ are needed which would drastically reduce the time period for evolution of drought resistant agriculture.
·        Since land and water are shrinking resources, and climate change is a real threat, there is an urgency to spread conservation and climate-resilient farming. A conservation-cultivation-consumption-commerce chain should be promoted in every block.
·       Incentivise Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) so as to reap maximum benefit out of it as the Approach paper says
2. Water management and pricing:
It is a well known fact that the geographical area of the country or the extensive land frontier for exploitation has reached its limits. In Punjab, and Western UP, so well endowed groundwater level is also falling. A very dramatic effort will thus be needed to harvest and carefully use the available water so that the dependence on Monsoon can be reduced.
We must:
·         Use technology in irrigation including computer controlled operating systems
·         Maintain the existing vast canal system in the country
·         Enforce standardization in micro / drip and other irrigation equipment
·         Propagate low water using agronomic practices such as Direct Sown Rice (DSR), System of Rice intensification (SRI), Laser Leveling etc
·         Water harvesting and recharging of aquifers on a sustainable basis
·         Pricing of power and water and accounting transparently and fairly for that in the MSP and tariff protection calculations, with provision of subsidy to small and marginal farmers. Any ways the farmers are paying for diesel.
·         A Nationwide Mission on Sprinkler and Micro irrigation along with a Nation wide programme on irrigation infrastructure
3. Modern technology for weather forecasting and data collection:
We need an estimate of the total quantum of rainfall in the whole country during the four-month monsoon season (June-September) but also its distribution in terms of space and time.
With these objectives I had presented a six-point programme for using satellite data to supplement traditional sources of agricultural and rural statistics and information in an ISRO ISAE Seminar.
·         Timely data on Land Use Statistics (LUS) since the traditional Crop and Season Reports are generally available with a time lag of three to five years.
·         Space data should be used for checking estimates of errors of crop area and yield statistics. While at the national level Timely Reporting System (TRS) and National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) sample checks gave low errors on production, at the state level, area and yield errors could be between 5 percent and 12 percent. Space data would be another check and would give timely results.
·         Scope of Geographic mapping systems to be increased. It should be used not only for public sector projects as earlier in. watersheds, etc., but also for cooperative, NGO and private sector projects.  
·         Two-way information systems should be developed with the help of space facilities. The farmers should not only be the source of data but should also be the recipient of technology and agro-economic data he needs for agriculture in a liberalizing economy. This is important for markets, technology access and medium term weather forecasts.
·         Water resource management is a must as water is and will be a scarce resource so recharging water bodies, disaster management should be looked into.
·         Setting up of a small Nucleus Institute, Centre with experts on deputation from ISRO, Central Statistical Organization (CSO), NSSO, MOA, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) NABARD, Consulting organizations, COOPS) to build up new systems of man and machine working together for a restructured agricultural information system. This would ultimately involve the private sector as well. 


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