India cheers as monsoon arrives in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram, May 31 (IANS) Southwest monsoon, often called one of the most dramatic wind movements on earth that brings over two-thirds of India’s rainfall and accounts for over half of its farm sector’s water needs, has arrived in Kerala.

After some highly technical and hard-to-understand jargon, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said in its much-awaited statement Monday that it was satisfied to declare that the monsoon had finally arrived in India, albeit a week later than last year.

In the mainland, monsoon is generally expected to hit Kochi June 1.

‘Conditions are favourable for further advance (of) monsoon into some parts of central Arabian Sea, coastal and south interior Karnataka and Goa during the next 48 hours,’ said the department.

It expects the rainfall to be 98 percent of the 50-year long-term average this year.

So over the next four-and-a-half months this annual phenomenon will travel northward along the Western Ghats and then spread over to the northeast and finally retreat towards south India before disappearing into the Bay of Bengal.

In the process, Indians will hope it brings enough rainfall to refill reservoirs, irrigate the fields and lift the underground water beds, and at the same time pray it does not result in floods, which are known to claim lives, uproot trees and destruct entire villages.

In fact, the weather department has already warned of an impending cyclone off the coast of Gujarat from Wednesday or so and asked fishermen not to venture into the Arabian Sea.

A failure of monsoon last year – which saw the worth precipitation since 1972 — resulted in a sharp drop in India’s food output that sent prices of grain, lentils, fruits and vegetables soaring – the effects of which people face even today.

For the tourism industry in Kerala, monsoon is big business. Ayurvedic centres are overjoyed – since practitioners believe the therapy is most effective during this season as it boosts the immunity.

At a broader level, the Indian government has predicted a higher growth of 8.5 percent for this fiscal as opposed to 7.4 percent for the previous year, mainly on the hope that monsoon rains would be normal.

‘The agricultural output for next year is likely to be better given the positive forecast of the IMD with respect to this year’s monsoon,’ said Shanto Ghosh, principal economist with consultancy firm Deloitte.

The farm output last fiscal grew a mere 0.2 percent.

Little wonder Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee says monsoon is the real finance minister of the country and not he, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said his prediction of a 8.5 percent economic growth for this fiscal depended on good monsoon.