DMPQ-Discuss how India needs to adopt to new Farming policy in the view of Changing Monsoon Patterns.

. There’s a lull this week in the progress of the southwest monsoon, the most important feature of India’s climate. Though Indian Metreological department (IMD) has forecast a normal monsoon this year, after two successive years of bountiful rainfall, the lull is a cause of concern. A little over 50% of India’s net sown area is under rainfed farming and a large part of the irrigated area depends on groundwater extraction through borewells. Therefore, long-term trends in the southwest monsoon overlap with economic security. In this context, a study last year by IMD on monsoon variability over a 30-year period (1989-2018) is a wakeup call. UP, Bihar and West Bengal are three of five states that have shown a significant decreasing trend in the southwest monsoon.

Water availability is a national challenge. India have 18% of the world’s population with just 4% of freshwater resources. This makes public policy of water use an area of far-reaching impact. Two trends have overwhelmed most other developments. First, inadequacies in public investment and, therefore, delivery of surface irrigation projects like canals have led to a rise in groundwater irrigation through borewells. This has been helped by free electricity for agriculture. Consequently, the share of borewells in irrigation has increased from 1% in 1960-61 to around 64% today. Second, this water use pattern is awfully inefficient. Indian farmers use two to four times more water than their Chinese counterparts to produce a unit of any major food crop.

Seen in the context of Indian metreological department’s finding that highly populated eastern states are recording dwindling returns from the southwest monsoon, such a farming model is unsustainable. Changes will include rethinking how policies in areas such as electricity are made. Electricity is an input everywhere and it can’t be put in a policy silo. A poorly framed power policy can have large negative externalities. Simultaneously, Indian agriculture needs to adopt newer, less water-intensive technologies faster. India’s water challenge is not insurmountable. It needs a doubling down on efforts such as the ongoing GoI scheme to incentivise the use of micro irrigation measures that use water more efficiently. We need more out of each drop.

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