NEW DELHI: Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh has written to chief ministers of all states and union territories to review their preparedness to mitigate possible drought in the event of a rain deficit in the upcoming monsoon season.
In the letter, the minister advised states to carry out this exercise in advance “so that the possible adverse impact of sub-par rainfall, if at all, on the farmers can be mitigated,” the agriculture ministry said in press statement issued on Monday.
The June-September monsoon rainfall this year is expected to be 96% of the long-term average, with a 5% error margin, as per the weather office’s forecast issued earlier this month. India Meteorological Department (IMD) will issue an updated forecast early next month with details of temporal (monthly) and regional distribution of monsoon rainfall.
Singh in his letter to chief ministers state of preparedness in districts should be in line with the district agricultural contingency plans, such as, for example, availability of abiotic stress resilient seeds varieties.
Ministry officials had earlier said the government has prepared contingency plans for 623 districts in 28 states to help farmers deal with lower output in the event of scanty rains, or the delayed onset of the monsoons.
The minister said the states should keep a watch on the progress in the implementation of schemes under district irrigation plans of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana and status of progress of water conservation/recharge/harvesting related works under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and watershed management.
“Establishment and activation of drought management centre at the state headquarter and arrangements for the monitoring of drought, should be done,” Singh said, adding that progress in the restoration of irrigation infrastructure such as desiltation of canals, repair of tubewells, faulty pumps and transformers/power lines should be carried on.
He pointed out that agricultural operations faced disruption in some states during 2016-17 on account of drought caused by aberrant weather conditions despite the country receiving normal rainfall, which helped farmers take production of cereals, pulses and oilseeds to new highs.
Singh said the Centre has permitted states and union territories to earmark 25% of funds under centrally sponsored schemes as flexi-funds which, inter-alia, could be used for mitigation of natural calamities.
“In addition, expanding the coverage of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana will enable farmers to minimise risks associated with loss of production in the event of a disaster,” he said.