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Retreating monsoon worst in 140 years; TN declares drought as 144 farmers die

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New Delhi, January 11: The Tamil Nadu government declared a drought on January 10, after 144 farmers ended their lives between October and December. As many as 106 farmers were reported to have committed suicide in one month, according to a notice issued by the National Human Rights Commission to the state government on January 5.

The retreating northeast monsoon — usually unnoticed in India owing to the singular importance of the larger southwest monsoon — in 2016 was the worst-ever over the last 140 years, according to Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) records, since 1876.

“It is an unprecedented situation,” S. Panneerselvam, Professor and Head, Agro Climate Research Centre, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore, said. “It has severely affected 21 of 32 districts of Tamil Nadu.”

“Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal on January the 16th,” said Panneerselvam. “It is when the harvest begins, but the yield this time is going to be the worst the state will see.”

On January 5, reservoirs in Tamil Nadu were at less than 20 per cent of their capacity, cited as the worst-ever for the state.

Record-keeping began in 1871, but a worse northeast monsoon, which sweeps across Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh, south interior Karnataka and Kerala, between October and December, was recorded in 1876, making 2016 the year of the second-worst monsoon in 145 years.

Overall, the northeast monsoon was 45 per cent short of the average for this period, the state worst hit being Tamil Nadu, where rainfall for the season was 62 per cent short of normal. Although the southwest monsoon — which waters the subcontinent between June and September — was classified as normal across India (three per cent below average), it was 19 per cent deficient in Tamil Nadu.

Hit by shortages from both monsoons, Tamil Nadu, where the winter crop depends more on the northeast monsoon than in any other Indian state, reported a 33 per cent drop in the winter sowing of rice, according to latest crop sowing situation report, updated weekly by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The northeast monsoon becomes active after the southwest monsoon retreats from the subcontinent. While there is no specific date for the retreat of southwest and the onset of northeast monsoon, October is regarded as the starting period of the lesser monsoon.

Apart from the two monsoons, Tamil Nadu also receives pre-monsoon rains, all important for agriculture.

Nagapattinam, Thiruvarur and Thanjavur were the worst hit districts in Tamil Nadu.

There are 135,000 paddy farmers among the 175,000 lakh farmers in our district, Nagapattinam, which falls in the Cauvery delta. Half the farmers have sown the paddy crop, but less than 20 per cent of the crop has crossed the flowering stage,” said J. Sekar, Joint Director of the Agriculture Department in the eastern coastal district of Nagapattinam. “Even this mature crop will yield nothing.

“Under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (prime minister’s crop insurance scheme), about 130,000 (95 per cent) paddy farmers in the district are insured,” said Sekhar. His claim could not be independently verified. “A premium of about Rs 11 crore has been collected. This will provide a safety net to our farmers.”

The failure of the northeast monsoon was evident across the South except Telangana, where farming is mostly rain-fed and dependent on the southwest monsoon.

With the northeast monsoon failing and the southwest sketchy, reservoirs in the southern states are in crisis — or nearing one.

Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Kerala now report the highest deficits nationwide. Tamil Nadu reservoirs are 82 per cent short of normal levels — the highest deficit in India currently — while those in Andhra Pradesh are 53 per cent short, Karnataka 39 per cent and Kerala 37 per cent.

Karnataka declared a drought in 22 districts and some additional talukas in October 2016; the state has received Rs 1,782 crore from the central government. All of Kerala has been declared drought-hit.

As 2016 ended, South India’s combined reservoir levels were 34 per cent of capacity, which is 22 percentage points less than 56 per cent, the average water availability over the last 10 years.

Tamil Nadu had targeted 14.5 lakh hectares under rice in 2016-17, according to the weekly sowing situation report dated January 6, of the Agriculture Ministry, more than any other state. But no more than 7.18 lakh hectares had been sown until January 5, which is 3.5 lakh hectares — or 33 per cent — less than the five-year sowing average of 10.68 lakh hectares.

Compared to the first-week-of-January average of 17.28 lakh hectares of sowing, rice has been planted on 12.74 lakh hectares across India, leaving a deficit of 4.54 lakh hectares, or 26 per cent.

“Less area coverage has been reported from the states of Tamil Nadu (3.50 lakh hectare), Andhra Pradesh (0.31 lakh hectare), Karnataka (0.15 lakh hectare), Telangana (0.13 lakh hectare), Assam (0.12 lakh hectare), Odisha (0.09 lakh hectare) and Kerala (0.09 lakh hectare),” said the government’s sowing report.

IANS

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Bengal Panchayat polls: Sporadic violations as fresh nominations filed

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Kolkata, April 23 (IANS) Fresh nominations for the West Bengal Panchayat polls were filed on Monday amid tight security even as sporadic incidents clashes between the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition party activists took place in some districts.

Most cases of violence took place in the districts of Bankura and Murshidabad where BJP and Left activists accused the Trinamool Congress supporters of forcefully stopping their prospective candidates from filing nominations.

In Murshidabad, a CPI-M party office was vandalised by miscreants while a CPI-M candidate was allegedly beaten up and sustained a serious head injury.

The car of Congress leader Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury was also alleged attacked with bricks and crude bombs outside the party office in Murshidabad district’s Shamshergunj.

“As many as eight bombs were hurled at my vehicle outside the party office. The car has been damaged and two of my associates got injured in the incident,” Chowdhury said.

Stray incidents of violence were also reported from South 24 Pargana district’s Diamond Harbour, Budge Budge and Nodakhali where the CPI-M accused Trinamool Congress backed goons of stopping their candidates from going near the BDO offices to file nominations.

Acting on a Calcutta High Court order, the West Bengal State Election Commission on Saturday fixed April 23 as the extended deadline for filing of nomination papers for the coming Panchayat polls in the state and asked the state police to ensure security during the nomination process.

It also fixed April 25 for scrutiny of fresh nominations and April 28 as the last date for withdrawal of candidatures.

The opposition BJP, CPI-M, Congress and PDS had moved the court, accusing Trinamool of unleashing massive pre-poll violence against their party workers to prevent them from filing nominations ever since the poll process began on April 2.

Justice Subrata Talukdar on Friday quashed the SEC’s April 10 order that had cancelled the extension of date for filing of nominations, which the poll panel announced on April 9 night, directing it to issue a fresh extended deadline for filing of nominations in consultation with the state government and other stakeholders.

IANS

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Heavy smoke disrupts services on Delhi Metro’s Red Line

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Delhi Metro's Red Line (Dilshad Garden-Rithala) were suspended for more than one hour on Monday after heavy smoke from a nearby blaze.

New Delhi, April 23: Services on the Delhi Metro’s Red Line (Dilshad Garden-Rithala) were suspended for more than one hour on Monday after heavy smoke from a nearby blaze made it difficult for the trains to run, the DMRC said.

“At 1.15 p.m., heavy smoke was reported to have originated from the nearby slums beneath the viaduct between Mansarovar Park and Shahdara Metro stations. As a precautionary measure, train services were suspended between three stations between Dilshad Garden and Mansarovar Park Metro stations during this period,” said the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) in a statement.

“Rest of the line remained unaffected. At 2.33 p.m., normal services were resumed after due clearances,” it added.

The smoke was due to a major fire incident which occurred at a building in nearby Shashi Garden of Gandhi Nagar. Two men were killed in the massive blaze that had broken out at around 11 p.m. on Sunday in the three-storey establishment housing a jeans factory.

“Although our metro train system is fire-proof, we could not take chances and run the trains through smoke, which could have hampered the visibility as well. We suspended the operations the moment it occurred to us that it could pose some threat,” a metro official told IANS.

IANS

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7 injured after Delhi Metro guarder falls in Ghaziabad’s Mohan Nagar

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At least 7 injured after a guarder of Delhi Metro fell down in Ghaziabad's Mohan Nagar.

New Delhi, April 23: At least seven people were injured on Monday after a guarder, which was being used by the Delhi Metro for the construction of a foot-over bridge, collapsed in Ghaziabad’s Mohan Nagar.

According to a statement issued by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC): The accident took place at an under-constructed foot-over-bridge at the Mohan Nagar metro station on the Dilshad Garden-New Bus Adda corridor.

The girder that fell was erected to build the foot-over-bridge in Mohan Nagar.

Ghaziabad: Five injured after a girder of Delhi Metro falls down in Mohan Nagar

The DMRC in its statement also said that they are verifying the details of the incident.

Meanwhile, The Chief Project Manager and General Manager/Safety of DMRC have reached the site to take stock of the situation.

The bridge was being built for the upcoming Dilshad Garden-New Bus Adda section of the network.

The 9.41-km metro extension is proposed to have eight stations in Ghaziabad – Shaheed Nagar, Raj Bagh, Rajendra Nagar, Shyam Park, Mohan Nagar, Arthala, river Hindon and the New Bus stand.

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