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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Indian fears over monsoon delay
A Hindu prayer ceremony being held to bring rain
Prayers are being held to bring rain
Senior agricultural officials in India have drawn up an emergency plan to deal with a growing crisis arising out of the delay to monsoon rains in parts of the country.

Monsoon rains are considered vital for Indian agriculture, and normally hit most of the country by the first week of July.

But this year, the monsoon has not yet arrived in many places.

The states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are reported to be badly affected.

Desperate citizens have also begun holding Hindu ceremonies seeking rains.

Relief for farmers

The Indian Agriculture Minister, Ajit Singh, told the BBC that delayed rains had already destroyed many crops.

Assam villagers cope with floods
Some parts of the country are facing floods

"The state governments are being asked to consider relief measures for farmers including waiving of loans taken by farmers from the government," Mr Singh said.

He added that if rains did not come for the next 15 days, the government would declare a drought in these regions.

Monsoon rains provide vital irrigation for Indian agriculture as the country does not have a fully developed irrigation network.

In states such as Andhra Pradesh, the water shortage has also led to a serious power crisis.

Blow to economy

Many agricultural labourers here have been rendered jobless and prices of vegetables have also risen.


The buying power of people living in rural areas will diminish because of crop failure.

KK Ravi, Economist

The director of economic affairs in the Confederation of Indian Industry, KK Ravi, said a drought would be a big blow to the country's economy.

"The buying power of people living in rural areas will diminish because of crop failure." he said, adding that sale of consumer goods in rural areas may also be affected.

According to Mr Ravi shortage of rainfall in the next few days could lead to a drop of 0.25 percent in the growth of the gross domestic product of the country.

The government has set a target of 6.5 percent of GDP growth this year.

Weather officials say low pressure building up in Bay of Bengal has raised hopes of rain in the next few days.

While several states in the country are experiencing a shortage of rainfall, the eastern state of Bihar and the north-eastern state of Assam faced floods recently caused by heavy rains.

See also:

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