The Monsoons Wash Up on India

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June 10 – The much awaited monsoon washed up on India's south western coast earlier this month. Providing a much needed respite from the dreaded heat that can reach 45 degrees celcius, the Indian monsoom brings with it joy and disease. While low lying areas drown in a downpour, cities become a swirl of traffic and diseases, nonetheless Indians all look forward to the frenzy of the monsoon.

In India the monsoon is not just a season, it has social, political and economical connotations to the Indian. The rainy season brings with it a reason to enjoy India's verdant hill stations and throw rain dance parties, it is also integral to the economy.

Although the share of agriculture in India's GDP has slipped from around 50 percent in the 1950s to just under 20 percent, it is still crucial as it supports about 60 percent of the nation's 1.1 billion population. A healthy monsoon puts cash in the hands of India's vast rural population, fuelling consumer demand. And it's not just agriculture that the monsoon will impact; it has implications for tourism, insurance, consumer goods sales, aviation, manufacturing, construction, sports and more. A good monsoon will stimulate many sectors.

This year's monsoon is also being keenly watched by the Congress-led government which is battling inflation running at near four-year highs of 8.1 percent. If India suffers a bad monsoon, and crops fail there is a strong chance the government will lose its election sheduled for next year. Good rains would produce a bountiful harvest that would help ease food inflation, one of the chief concerns of voters, analysts say.

Summer crops, such as rice, sugarcane, cotton and oilseeds which are sown in July and harvested from October depend on the rains. India has suspended exports of rice, lentils and other food staples to improve domestic supplies and bring down prices, reported the AFP.

By mid-April, as temperatures soar past 42 degrees Celsius in vast swathes of the country, Indians begin looking up to the heavens, desperately seeking respite from the sweltering heat. As heat waves sweep across the plains in May, desperation builds and conversations – normally dominated by politics or cricket – veer towards the much anticipated monsoons.

A few thundershowers and the countdown begins. The stage is set for the arrival of the monsoons.

By the third week of May, all eyes turn to Kerala, the state where the monsoon makes its grand entry, and whose meteorological station at Thiruvananthapuram is charged with the responsibility of announcing the monsoon's "official arrival". The top weatherman predicts the date of the monsoon's arrival, but the monsoon is a capricious phenomenon. It teases India, tearing towards the coast and then pulling away. Thick grey clouds race across the sky, only to disappear.

It is an agonizing wait but the meteorological department will not officially declare the southwest monsoon's onset until at least 60% of the Kerala weather stations show sufficient downpour for two consecutive days. And when that happens, the much-awaited announcement comes from the weatherman at Thiruvananthapuram. It's official: the monsoons have arrived.

While one arm of the southwest monsoon races up the west coast, another stretches across the Bay of Bengal, where it then swings into India's northeast, embracing and drenching all of India by mid-July, according to Asia Times Online.

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