New Delhi: With the progress of the monsoon slowing over Karnataka, India Meteorological Department(IMD) has advised farmers in Maharashtra to postpone sowing seeds until the rains reach the state in the next four to five days.
“The Konkan region is getting pre-monsoon rains and will soon get monsoon too, but in interior Maharashtra and Marathwada, farmers are advised not to begin sowing as the soil is heated, and the seeds require rainfall when sown to grow into good crops," said N. Chattopadhyay, deputy director general of agricultural meteorology division at IMD.
Marathwada is a drought-hit area of Maharashtra, and farmer suicides in the region, comprising eight districts, have been rising. Over 1,100 farmers committed suicide in Marathwada in 2015, as per government statistics.
In March this year, the Maharashtra government declared drought in 11,962 villages in the Vidarbha region, taking the total number of such villages to 27,723 —nearly half the 43,000 villages in the state.
At least 11 states, including Maharashtra, have declared drought in over 266 districts of the country affecting at least 330 million people.
As of 10 June, farmers had planted 7.1 million hectares with crops such as rice, pulses, coarse cereals, oilseeds, sugarcane and cotton. But the area cultivated so far is smaller than the 7.7 million hectares sown by this time last year, Mint reported on 11 June. A slowing monsoon in parts of the country may affect the sowing of rain-fed kharif crops.
The seasonal area, or the total area where the crops are planted during the entire season, under kharif crops is 106.2 million hectares.
On Tuesday, the agricultural meteorological division issued an advisory for central Maharashtra and Marathwada saying, “As there is possibility of insufficient rainfall up to 18 June, therefore it is advised to avoid sowing of kharif crops in most parts of the subdivision as the low soil moisture can affect the germination of seeds."
As IMD offered a word of caution, union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh wrote to all the parliamentarians to spend a portion of their MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) fund for undertaking “drought mitigation and water conservation activities" in their respective constituencies.
“The back-to-back droughts in two consecutive years is a relatively rare phenomenon which has not only affected farmers and families dependent on agriculture for income and livelihood, but also created shortage of drinking water and fodder," Singh wrote in his letter to MPs.
“I’m sure, many colleagues would have already committed MPLADS funds for alleviating the condition of their constituents in drought-affected areas. However, I take this opportunity to urge members of parliament to consider further allocation of funds liberally for undertaking activities geared towards water conservation, aquifer recharging, drinking water arrangements...for providing relief to the population faced with difficulties associated with drought," Singh wrote to his fellow MPs.
IMD’s Chattopadhyay explained that the southwest monsoon has two branches: the Bay of Bengal branch and the Arabian branch.
“While Bay of Bengal branch is relatively active, the Arabian (Sea) branch is not progressing like that," Chattopadhyay said.
The monsoon has advanced into various parts of the Bay of Bengal, north-eastern states and some parts of sub-Himalayan West Bengal and Sikkim. On the other hand, it remains stuck in the southern states and is only expected to advance into Maharashtra in the next four days.
The IMD bulletin said that the conditions are favourable for further advance of the monsoon into parts of central Arabian Sea, Goa, parts of Konkan region, south Madhya Maharashtra and Marathwada, remaining parts of north interior Karnataka, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra Pradesh, some parts of Telangana, remaining parts of Bay of Bengal and some parts of Odisha, Gangetic West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar during the next 4-5 days.
“After four to five days, monsoon will set over Maharashtra and then farmers can begin sowing of seeds for crops such as soyabean, cotton, pulses and groundnut," said Chattopadhyay.