June 29: Everyone loves a good monsoon. Finance ministers more so.
In the midst of the dry number crunching of the budget, the news of normal monsoon from the met office gave P. Chidambaram a reason to smile.
Never mind the current lull in rains, said weather scientists, July — the most crucial time for farmers — will be a good month.
In its updated forecast, the Indian Meteorological Department said rainfall over the entire country is likely to be 100 per cent of the normal. In July, it will be 98 per cent of the normal. The performance of several crops, including rice and oilseeds, hinges on the behaviour of the rains in July.
A good monsoon is half the finance minister’s job done, though it was not enough to secure Atal Bihari Vajpayee votes despite the fact that copious rains in the previous year influenced to an extent the decision to hold early polls.
The BJP’s election defeat has made this the year of the farmer, or so it would seem from the emphasis of the Manmohan Singh government on agriculture.
After a good start, weak monsoon conditions have reigned across India over the past 10 days, but this is not unusual, Suresh Srivastava, the director-general of the met department, said.
In the first three weeks of June, India received 21 per cent excess rainfall. But, scientists said, this analysis of the monsoon in June could change by the end of the month because of the ongoing low-rainfall spell.
Until now, 31 out of India’s 36 meteorological regions have received normal or excess rainfall. Only five meteorological subdivisions — Assam and Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Marathwada, Rayalseema and Telengana — have experienced deficient rainfall.
That is bad news because Rayalseema and Telengana are in Andhra Pradesh where farmers have been committing suicide, for a combination of reasons, but subsequent seasons of drought is one of them.
The Prime Minister is heading to Andhra on Thursday. Singh told newly-installed Congress chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy at a meeting in Delhi today that he would visit villages to meet members of bereaved families.
Sadly for the finance minister, though, the stock market took the monsoon forecast with nary a hair out of place. Punters appeared to have soaked in the news already — there was a forecast in April and today’s is a reaffirmation. At other times, even this might have been reason enough to trigger some sort of a rally, but now the market is obsessed with the budget, due on July 8.
“We are concentrating on the budget. It’s hardly six trading days away. All our attention is focused on the budget,” Arun Kejriwal of Kejriwal Research and Investment Services said.
“If it rains in Mumbai, probably investors would sit up and notice,” he added.
Maybe, Chidambaram would have to wait a few days more for that and a rain-induced rally to happen.
Scientists are now tracking a low-pressure area that has formed over the Indian Ocean close to the equator. Over the next few days, this low-pressure zone is expected to move northwards.
“The appearance of the low-pressure zone in the northern Bay of Bengal will revive the monsoon,” Srivastava said.
“During the coming weekend, we expect a revival.”