The weather report issued by the Indian Meteorological Department is usually taken with a pinch of salt. But when you factor in the amount of tax payers’ money – ` 350 crore – that is funnelled annually into the business of predicting the weather one begins to take things more seriously.
The monsoon is the single most important annual occurrence in the sub-continent. It has a direct bearing on farm output and the gross domestic product. Hence predicting rain patterns from June to August is of utmost importance and getting it wrong could spell disaster for farmers. This is precisely what happened this year. The IMD predicted a normal monsoon and even when things appeared to be going wrong stuck to its report. The result is farmers who put their trust in the IMD and invested in seeds and fertilizers are staring at parched fields. So far the monsoon has been 22 per cent below normal. Punjab and Haryana, the bread baskets of the country received rainfall 42 per cent below normal. In the last 23 years the IMD has successfully predicted the monsoons only nine times. This is a terrible record by any standard and more so in a country like India which depends so heavily on the South-West monsoons. There is an urgent need for a rethink on the way the IMD is run. Predicting the weather is a hazardous task, but getting it wrong more often is unforgivable. Perhaps, the issue relates to the quality of equipment, monitoring stations and personnel, all of which can be resolved if there if sufficient pressure is brought to bear on the government to do something. Instead of spending crores on a mission to Mars, the nation would benefit more if the IMD is upgraded and weather prediction made more accurate.