Prime minister announces new package to protect rural communities, as March rains ruin crops in northern states
By Ed King
India’s government plans to increase its financial assistance to farmers hit by unseasonal rains this year, offering higher levels of compensation for crop damage.
In what officials said was a “landmark change” in support for rural communities, farmers who have had 33% of their crops damaged will now be eligible for help, as opposed to the previous baseline of 50%.
“Helping the farmer in this time of distress is our responsibility,” prime minister Narendra Modi said in a statement.
Financial help for farmers – known in India as an input subsidy – would also be boosted by 50%, he added.
March 2015 was India’s wettest month in 48 years, said India’s Meteorological Department.
Rainfall was 61.1mm, nearly double the average of 30.9mm, with downpours and hailstorms across parts of north India affecting wheat, mustard, pulses and beans.
According to local reports crops in the Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra were all affected.
Some communities in Uttar Pradesh reported crop losses of over 50%. In Kashmir downpours left 17 dead and hundreds homeless.
Scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology say the country is likely to face more extreme weather conditions as global temperatures rise.
Last year a UN panel of climate scientists reported the frequency of heavy precipitation events would likely increase across India due to global warming.
And it warned the summer monsoon – a critical time of the year for farmers – is set to become more erratic with more intense downpours and more days with no rain.
“In Southeast Asia, annual total wet-day rainfall has increased by 22 mm per decade, while rainfall from extreme rain days has increased by 10 mm per decade,” the panel said.
Countries are set to agree a new global pact to tackle rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for causing climate change, at a Paris conference later this year.
So far India, the world’s third largest emitter, has not revealed how it will contribute to the proposed deal, which is aimed to limiting warming to below 2C above pre industrial levels, beyond which scientists say more extreme floods, droughts and rising sea levels will occur.
The country has ambitious solar and wind energy targets for 2020, but is also expanding its use of coal. An estimated 300 million in the country lack access to electricity.
In a speech on Monday Modi said he did not feel under pressure to announce any new climate commitment. The US, EU, Mexico and Russia are among countries to have already delivered carbon cutting pledges to the UN.
“The world guides us on climate change and we follow them? The world sets the parameters and we follow them? It is not like that,” Modi said. “We can lead the world.”