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



farm drought

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.



Six dead in road accidents in Odisha



Road Accident

Bhubaneswar, Jan 22: At least six persons were killed and four others injured in two separate road accidents in Odisha on Monday.

A deadly head-on collision between a truck and an auto-rickshaw on new Jagannath Sadak in Satyabadi area of Puri district claimed five lives and left three others injured on Sunday night, said police on Monday.

Satyabadi Inspector-in-Charge Krushna Chandra Sethy said the deceased and the injured have been identified as the residents of Andalsingha village.

Eight persons were returning after attending a funeral at Swargadwar in Puri when the auto they were travelling in was hit by a truck, said police.

While four died on the spot, one succumbed to his injury at Puri District Headquarters Hospital (DHH).

The condition of the injured was stated to be critical.

In another road accident, a person died and his wife sustained critical injuries after being hit by an unidentified vehicle at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Monday.

The deceased was identified as Dambarudhar Behera, 50. His wife has been admitted to Capital Hospital here.


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Uttar Pradesh: Dense fog causes bus-truck collision, 36 injured



Lucknow, Jan 22: Three dozen passengers, travelling on a Uttar Pradesh roadways bus, were injured on Monday after the vehicle was hit by a speeding truck due to low visibility, police said.

The head-on collision took place near the Charpaan turn near Belipaar on the Gorakhpur-Varanasi highway.

The impact was so severe that the bus was badly damaged. A police officer said fog and poor visibility led to the accident.

The injured included 33 passengers from the bus, the bus driver, truck driver and a cleaner of the truck. Condition of two persons were serious.

The injured were admitted to the district hospital while the serious ones were rushed to the the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur.

The Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) bus belonged to the Allahabad Depot. It was on its way to Gorakhpur when the accident occurred.

While the weather has cleared in most parts, fog and poor visibility continues in eastern parts of the state, especially on the national highways leading to such accidents.


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CISF recovers 20 live cartridges from woman at Adarsh ​​Nagar Metro Station



New Delhi, Jan 22: Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel on Monday seized twenty  live cartridges from a woman at Adarsh Nagar metro station in the national capital during security checking.

The Adarsh Nagar metro station is located on the Yellow Line stretch of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), runs from Samaypur Badli to Huda city centre in Gurugram.

More details awaited.


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