Monsoon Prediction For Bengal Adds To It COVID-19 Woes

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) this week has predicted the country is expected to get above normal rainfall for the entire monsoon months.

It has predicted 101 percent rainfall for the country. While it means most parts of the country can expect to get normal, it has some bad news for Eastern and North-Eastern India.

While North-West India is expected to get 92-108 per cent of normal rainfall, Central India above normal rainfall at more than 106 per cent, Southern India in between 93-107 percent, North-East region is expected to get below normal rainfall at less than 95 per cent.

In other words, while the rainfall will be good for the rest of India, the East and North-East will not be that lucky this time. And this region includes Bengal and Assam along with many small states. Bengal has fertile land and more than thirty per cent of its population is directly dependent on agriculture as farmers. Another large population is involved in marketing agricultural produces. And in the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, agriculture has become all the more important this year.

A less than normal monsoon is therefore bad news for Bengal. However, it is true that the overall quantum of daily rainfall in Eastern and North-Eastern India is higher than in other parts of the country.

Therefore a good rainfall in the North-West may still be lesser than in the North-East. But, in a large part of Bengal, a good monsoon allows sowing of three to four major crops. A bad monsoon may damage the possibility of good yield for the crops sowed in the later part of the monsoon.

Because of the failure to attract new big industries, West Bengal’s contribution to the GDP of the nation is falling over the decades. The trend is continuing till now. In 2011-12, the last year of the Left Front rule, Bengal contributed to 6 per cent of the nation’s GDP.

It came down to 5.3 per cent in 2018-19, according to statistics provided by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The rate of growth of the state’s revenue collection is also decreasing over the years. And Covid-19 has hit it badly. Bengal is among the five Indian states whose economy has taken the maximum beating in 2020. It highlights the importance of agriculture for Bengal, particularly for this year.

Bengal is one of the few states of India with a surplus production of many food crops, particularly rice and potato. It produces nearly 25 per cent of the total rice produced in India and 30 per cent of potato, though its population is 7.5 per cent of the total population of the country.

It is also the largest producer of jute. It is a surplus in the production of tea, vegetables, and edible oil. So, a good monsoon is crucial for Bengal, particularly because it has failed for decades to attract major big industries. It has the largest concentration of MSMEs, but again, some of them are dependent on agriculture.

Under the circumstances, a bad monsoon is definitely bad news for Amit Mitra, the state Finance Minister. It will not auger well for the first year of the third government of Mamata Banerjee, who has promised more freebies during the recent assembly elections.

(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books) 

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