Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unfavorable Monsoon Brings Drought-Like Situation

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his concern about the effects of an unfavorable monsoon. This should be taken as a warning of the situation ahead. Weather has played spoilsport. It has adversely affected the sowing of the kharif crop.

A large part of the country is facing drought-like situation. Paddy is likely to be planted in less than 6 million hectares, as compared to last year. According to the latest Agriculture Ministry estimate, the area in which the kharif crop can be cultivated has reduced by 25 percent. One hundred and forty one districts have been declared as drought affected. This number will obviously go up in the coming days.

Impact on General Commodities
Needless to say that in order to overcome its aftereffects, people must work in unison with the government to save themselves and the country's flora and fauna. A weak monsoon will result in poor harvest and prices will surely shoot up. If the prime minister himself warns of rising food prices, the fact has to be accepted as gospel truth.

Prices of general provisions have already started going up. A further increase will cause tremendous hardship to the masses. Social, religious and voluntary organizations will also play their part, but the main responsibility is that of the Government.

Advantage for Profiteers
Addressing a meeting of State Chief Secretaries, the Prime Minister has rightly advised them to take stringent measures against hoarders. Profiteers usually take advantage of such crises. There can be no difference of opinion on the seriousness being attached to the problem by the Union Government.

Meetings of Chief Ministers and Agriculture Ministers are soon to be held. The decisions to be made there are being awaited.

The Prime Minister's firm assurance not to let anyone die of starvation has brought a ray of hope to poor and deprived sections of people. But this is easier said then done. It is true that the country has sufficient stock of food grain due to good harvests in the last two years. Export of wheat has been stopped in an effort to prevent a shortage in the future. But who will guarantee that adequate quantity of provisions will reach the needy in time?

State Responsibility
This is a state responsibility. The decision has, therefore, to be made by states. The surest way of reaching food grain to the poor is the public distribution system.

The Prime Minister has given some suggestions to streamline it. If these are heeded, no one will certainly die of starvation. Separate measures will, nevertheless, have to be taken to guarantee sufficient fodder for animals and assist farmers during the next cultivation.

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