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Poll Promises
Late rains a damper for UPA
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 20
The monsoon has been delayed by 10 more days. This is a cause of concern for the nation’s food security and also for the UPA regime’s promise of cheap food-grains for the poor. In all likelihood, production of rice, maize, bajra, groundnut, black gram, golden gram and sugarcane would be hampered by delayed rains.

The Indian Meteorological Department has said there is no possibility of rain for north and central India in the next few days. This has sent alarm bells ringing in the national capital as rains are linked to food grain productivity that in turn is linked to the government’s plan to provide cheap food grain.

Normally, by this time of the year the monsoon should have reached western UP, Gujarat and eastern Rajasthan. Since the start of June the total rainfall has been 39.5 mm against a normal rainfall of 72.5 mm. This means a deficiency of almost 45 per cent. It is classified as “scanty” in 28 out of the 36 met-subdivisions across the country.

On the political front, the government needs ample stock of grain to deliver its commitment of 25 kg of grain at Rs three per kg to the poorest of the poor through PDS. For this, the grain stocking is yet to be done as the agri-economists are waiting for the production estimates to be finalised. Though the government has a food grain stock of 50 million tonnes, this may not be enough in view of the expansion of PDS.

Insufficient monsoon means the crucial process of transplantation of paddy in Punjab and Haryana has been adversely hit. For transplantation, farmers need at at least three to four inches of water in the fields. Having started the transplantation process 10 days ago, Punjab officials have told the Centre that the lack of monsoon could spell doom for rice production as temperatures are very high and the atmosphere lacks moisture.

The other option is operation of tubewells to flood the fields, but that cannot re-create the natural moisture of the air during the monsoon. The Central government has allocated an additional 250 MW of power to Punjab to operate the tubewells. Sources in the agriculture sector said the next four to five days were very crucial for Punjab and also northern-parts of Haryana. Some 215 lakh tonnes of paddy, which would yield about 115-116 lakh tonnes of rice for the national food pool, is to be grown in these areas.

For the two states, the other bad news is that water levels in the huge storage dams in the Himalayas will soon start depleting at a faster rate and this could mean less water will be available in the canals. At present, the water-level in the Bhakra, Ranjit Sagar and the Pong, is more or less the same as last year, but the situation was fast changing, said an official while explaining that no rain is predicted for Himachal Pradesh - the catchment area of the rivers that fill these dams.

The additional power to Punjab and Haryana was needed as the assured and allocated power supply from Himachal Pradesh and southern states has been badly hit. In the hill state, the river project like the Natpha Jhakri has not been running to its optimal capacity while the dams are used for generation during the evening peak demand.

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