The monsoon is here and not so late as to cause furrows on India’s brow, but not early enough to make much of a difference to the general optimism that pervades the land with the advent of June. A normal monsoon is critical this year because of the economic slowdown the country is going through. Rainfall close to the southwest monsoon average of 89 cm would promise a bounteous harvest. There is no trophy yet to be given away to the one who wins the annual contest of predicting the exact date of the onset of the monsoon. But it is safe to assume that the public forecaster IMD got the date — June 8 — right.
The pride of predicting whether the monsoon would be normal or deficient is probably more relevant to the national mood, which in the pre-poll period was overshadowed by rural and agrarian distress. The fear that the official forecaster is more concerned with an optimistic forecast to suit the masters has to be measured against the private forecaster’s less access to the big data of speciality weather satellites. Both could get the final figure wrong but, from the country’s point of view, it is not excess or deficit rainfall as how evenly the rainfall spreads that makes the key difference. This is where micro-forecasting can be more useful than number crunching as farmers can plan better. We also saw the phenomenon of unprecedented flooding ruin Kerala because the water managers seemed to be quite deficient in dam management in 2018, leading to the belief that good rain alone is not enough for India.