On Oct 26, 2015, Madhya Pradesh declared drought in 33283 villages in 228 tehsils in 35 districts (of total of 50 districts), affecting 4.4 m ha area and 4.8 m farmers. It sounded a bit strange since Western MP, comprising of 30 districts, had above average rainfall as per IMD (India Meteorology Department) figures for the 2015 monsoon (rainfall during June 1 to Sept 30).
So we decided to cross check district wise rainfall figures. We found that as per IMD, in 29 of the 50 districts in the state, rainfall was Normal or Excess. In case of 21 districts, the rainfall was deficient, that is more than 20% below normal.
Our doubts strengthened, we decided to check the Madhya Pradesh government figures for district wise rainfall. This we found in MP Agriculture Department website. When we compared the District wise Rainfall figures for rainfall during monsoon between the figures given by IMD and the MP Agriculture, we found that there were major discrepancies between the two sets of figures. The district-wise rainfall figures are given in table below from both sources, the last two columns give the difference in mm and and in %.
DISTRICT-WISE RAINFALL DISTRIBUTION (01.06.2015 to 30.09.2015)
Comparison between IMD & Agriculture Department MP statistics
IMD Rainfall, mm
MP Agri Dept. Actual RF
|Difference in Actual RF between IMD and MP Agri Dept|
|Actual||Normal||Difference (mm)||% Difference|
In case of 36/50 districts, the difference is over 10%, in 5 out of these 37 districts, the agri department rainfall is higher than IMD figure, in case of 31 districts, the agri department shows LOWER figure of rainfall. The reduction is as high as 89% in case of Sidhi district and close to or over 80% in case of four districts, including Damoh, Indore and Alirajpur. In 12 other cases, the reduction is close to or over 40%.
The districts that had more than 20% deficit rainfall compared to normal as per IMD are categorized as Deficient. Some districts (e.g. Satna, Dindori, Vidisha, Ujjain, Hoshangabad, Khargone, Khandwa, Jhabua, Indore, Dhar, Gwalior, Betul, Barwani, Ashoknagar, Alirajpur) which did not fall in this category, are suddenly in this category. Many of them will in fact be in Scanty rainfall category, even though as per IMD they would have got normal rainfall.
In order to confirm the reality, we talked with some IMD officials and local persons from some of the districts. Rehmat from Manthan Adhyayan Kendra (Barwani) said that in Malwa, even though the rainfall was high in July, the excess rainfall in July and dry spell subsequently destroyed crops (soybean) in many areas, leading to agricultural drought for the farmers. He also said that during a visit to Damoh district recently, he found there drought like situation, saying that there may be drinking water crisis there later on. However, he expressed surprise that State agriculture department has shown 83 mm rainfall in Damoh and 650 mm rainfall in neighboring Sagar district, both figures seem doubtful. Rehmat said that many of the IMD figures in the Alirajpur-Jhabua area do not seem to reflect reality.
Rahul Bannerjee from Indore confirmed that IMD figure for Indore rainfall is correct. IMD (RMC) Anand Sharma confirmed that when central departments assess the drought situation, they go by the IMD rainfall figures.
IMD’s DGM (Hydrology) Dr (Mrs) Surinder Kaur told SANDRP that IMD network includes only those stations that follow WMC criteria. She said that state government may be including more rain-gauge stations, but many of them may not be following the IMD criteria. She also said that the Agricultural Department, if including only Agrimet stations, than the number of stations in their assessment may be smaller. When shown the stark difference in rainfall figure of say Indore district, with IMD showing the monsoon rainfall as 1193.2 mm, while MP Agri Department showing just 247.11 mm, she said the figure of Madhya Pradesh clearly seems wrong.
Many questions thus arise about the accuracy of the rainfall figures from IMD and state agricultural department. SANDRP had earlier shown similar discrepancies in case of Maharashtra. Both IMD and state government needs to clarify the reasons for these huge differences in rainfall figures.
The suspicion that Madhya Pradesh government has manipulated the rainfall figures to declare drought in larger area remains, while doubts also arise about IMD figures. While some of the districts and tehsils in MP are surely in the grip of drought due to deficit monsoon & in case of some others even with high rainfall, crop failures may have occurred, there should be no need for the government to manipulate the rainfall figures either way. They in any case need to clarify why these is such huge difference in preliminary rainfall figures.
We hope both IMD and MP government will explain these differences. Better still, they should provide more disintegrated figures (say block level figures), including which are the locations of the rain-gauges based on which they have given the figures and what area each rain-gauge represents. We hope media, civil society and people in Madhya Pradesh will question IMD and the Madhya Pradesh government about this.
Himanshu Thakkar (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Bhim Singh Rawat