The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rain plays truant but offers ray of hope

Calcutta, July 26: Chasing monsoon through July, meteorologists today said there is possibility of heavy rain in the next fortnight, raising hope among about 70 lakh farmers in south Bengal.

The region has received little rain in July and the farmers are worried about transplantation of khariff paddy.

The agriculture department shares the farmers’ concern. The absence of heavy rain across the region in the next fortnight can take its toll of the khariff crop. All south Bengal districts, except Purulia, West Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, have received less than normal rain .

Paddy transplantation has already started but the progress is slow because of the lack of rain. “We are not pressing the panic button yet. But we are monitoring the situation, seeking reports from the districts and planning alternatives. We will have to increase the area of cultivation of rabi crops like pulses and oilseeds if the rain does not arrive in a fortnight,” agriculture secretary Sukhbilas Barma said.

There is “some reason for worry”, said K.K. Chakraborty, the director of the weather section at the regional meteorological centre, Alipore. But he also offered hope. The monsoon trough line that was stuck in the north, causing heavy rain there, has shifted south. But only just.

“This southward movement of the trough line has raised our hopes of rains in south Bengal in the near future. But we don’t expect heavy rain in the next one or two days,” Chakraborty said.

Agriculture department officials met finance minister Asim Dasgupta during the day and submitted a situation report.

A mother and her children wait for relief amid the ruins of their house at a village in Malda’s Panchanandapur. Picture by Surajit Roy

The agriculture department has already planned alternative crops and vegetables in case there is not enough rain by August 10 or 15. “Apart from pulses and oilseeds, we will advise farmers to cultivate palang, radish, cauliflower and cabbage on land where transplantation of khariff paddy is affected by lack of rain,” said Dhabaleswar Konar, the agriculture director.

North Bengal has been experiencing heavy rain since early June. In July, incessant rain caused rivers to swell and flood.

“Rain has played truant in south Bengal this monsoon. But in the north, it arrived ahead of schedule,” said Swadesh Mishra, the meteorologist at the agriculture directorate.

Met officials, however, do not foresee a drought-like condition. One of them said: “There may be lack of rain in July but, in June, rainfall was normal.”

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