Weathering the drought

Weathering the drought Every year, the month of May ends. India enters June, and expectations of rain. Small farmers scan the sky, reading the clouds (the big ones have subsidised irrigation pumps, and undemocratic canal water-sharing clout). Politicians begin to place calls to the New Delhi-based Indian Meterological Department (imd). Within the imd, scientists break out in a pox of activity. After all, it is their business to predict the south-west monsoon, in a country where 60 per cent of the land is rain-fed.

Oracles predicted monsoons, always when the king visited the shrine. Soothsayers predicted the monsoon, speaking in a trance, in many tongues, under the alert gaze of the village elite.

Predicting the monsoon is the perfect metaphor for political compulsion. Or, could it be a challenge to science?

This year, imd predicted a normal monsoon. It was flashed on all tv channels. All of us saw it. We didn't see imd scientists celebrating the 14th normal monsoon in a row. We saw politician-bytes: smiling sweaty faces with calculated expressions. 2002: another rain-filled year. Thank god, or votes.

2002 has flown in the face of political, and scientific, pronouncements.

14th normal monsoon? Does anybody remember the 1987 drought? Continuous drought since then, in some region or other in India?

15th normal monsoon? This year, drought affected 312 of the 523 districts India is comprised of (see:

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