While Chennai’s in the news for the record rains — 1,612.1 mm during the current northeast monsoon season from October 1, as against the normal of 708.6 mm for this period — that have brought the city to its knees, the picture has
been quite different for much of the rest of India.
The main southwest monsoon season started with a bang, with the country as a whole getting nearly 16 per cent above LPA (long period average) precipitation in June and 33 out of the total 36 meteorological subdivisions registering normal or excess rainfall. But the rains were deficient in each of the following three months of the season.
As a result, the kharif crop that farmers enthusiastically planted in response to the monsoon’s early arrival withered away in most parts owing to severe moisture stress.
But it did not stop there. In September, rainfall was deficient overall by 24 per cent, yet within normal limits in as many as 22 subdivisions. That included the whole of Maharashtra, northern Karnataka and Telangana, which bore the brunt of the prolonged dry spell in the preceding two months. The welcome September showers prompted farmers this time to go in for early rabi season plantings, to make up for their kharif losses. They were, however, caught on the wrong foot again, as October turned out to be dry, with 29 subdivisions (including the earlier mentioned regions) recording deficient rains.
Rainfall in November has turned out to be 34 per cent above LPA for India. But this average surplus figure masks the deficient to scanty precipitation in as many as 25 subdivisions, even with much of southern India — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, southern Karnataka, Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra Pradesh — receiving excess rains.
Indeed, virtually the whole of India northwards from Davangere and Bellary in Karnataka and Telangana is now reeling under drought. This has impacted the condition of the rabi crop — from wheat and mustard to chickpea, lentil and field-pea — even where sowings have taken place. In contrast, it’s been raining cats and dogs southwards of Telangana and northern Karnataka — not to speak of Chennai!