No worrries over Indian monsoon

A member of an Indian nomadic group, which makes brooms for a living works by a roadside in Kathua, about 80km from Jammu, India. (Channi Anand, AP)
A member of an Indian nomadic group, which makes brooms for a living works by a roadside in Kathua, about 80km from Jammu, India. (Channi Anand, AP)

New Delhi - India's monsoon, vital to hundreds of millions of farmers and of crucial importance to the economy, will probably be normal this year, a report said on Monday.

"So far, there is no worry signal," D Sivananda Pai, head of long-range monsoon forecasting at India's Meteorological Department, told Dow Jones News Wires.

Last year, India got below-normal rain in the first half of the June to September wet season. The rains picked up in some areas later, but large areas of west and south India did not benefit.

This year, central parts of the western state of Maharashtra, India's biggest sugar-producer, are reeling from the worst drought in over four decades while the southern state of Andhra Pradesh is also parched.

More than 70% of Indians depend on farm incomes, and at least 60% of the nation's farms lack irrigation, meaning they depend entirely on the rains that fall in intense bursts over the wet season.

The Congress-led national government's hopes of over six percent economic growth this financial year - up from an estimated decade low of five percent last year - hinge on India receiving a normal monsoon.

The weather official's comments came the same day as the deputy Maharashtra state chief minister Ajit Pawar apologised for remarks suggesting "urinating" in dams could raise their water levels.

The opposition had condemned Pawar's statements as "a cruel joke on the drought-hit population of the state".

Pawar told the Maharashtra state assembly that he was sorry over his comments and promised that drought-relief measures "will continue vigorously".

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