Posted 17 June 2011, by Shyamal Gupta, Economic Times (Times of India), articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com
Monsoon prediction has long been a touchy and sticky issue in India. Monsoon has price implication on commodities as well as on the perceived health of the overall economy. Monsoon is the greatest single factor in Indian agriculture and thus myth impinges on it as well.
According to legends, Vritra (personification of drought) kept the waters of the world captive. He was killed by Indra (Lord of Heaven) by destroying all the ninety-nine fortresses of Vritra before liberating the imprisoned celestial rivers. Humans have always wanted to predict the future. Never this has been truer than when it comes to the weather.
The department of meteorology uses all the internationally-approved parameters as well as cutting edge technology. The state-of-the-art Doppler S Band radar in Mumbai, costing around Rs 10 crore, does not have many expert interpreters. A nation which has spent thousands of crores of rupees on capital-intensive equipment still looks to experts like fishermen to spot the altered behaviour of fish to predict the rains.
The farmers continue to rely on the age-old almanac (panchang) to predict the local rainfall. It is not only the challenges to dissemination of forecasts (in absence of information delivery mechanism) but the ambiguous forecasts like ‘medium to heavy rainfall is expected around West Coast’ leaves a question mark on the veracity and utility for the local farming community.
The classical Indian almanac gives the calculations that enable many people to predict bi-weekly average rainfall. Though its correctness has often been denounced by the modern meteorologists , however, the high level of the usage in rural and semi-urban India cannot be undermined. In the ‘panchang’, the lunar year has been considered with every fourth year having thirteen months to adjust to the earth’s natural year.
Various stars, planets and constellations in the sky are divided into 27 parts, called the nakshatras. Every nakshatra cannot be located easily like a zodiac sign because it is a part of the sky as seen only from a particular point on earth. Of the 27 nakshatras, nine are during the monsoon, and are called the monsoon nakshatras.
Two important treatises by Sage Varahamihira called ‘Brihatsamhita’ and ‘Panchasiddhantika’ gives the details of how the calculations are done and the principles used in formulating predictions. Anand Agriculture University (AAU) scientists are conducting a study to see if these movements have an impact on the occurrence of rains. The study aims to blend astrology and meteorology to predict the quantum of rainfall in a particular year, whether it will be a good monsoon or a drought year.
AAU has already distributed the questionnaires and the almanac to ‘sarpanchs’ and ‘talatis’ of the 18,000 villages across Gujarat. They have been asked to fill in details like the quantum of rainfall and how long it rained, on a daily basis in the calendar and reports it monthly to AAU. The daily rainfall data received from all villages as per the astro-meteorological calendar will be collected and compared with 100 years of rainfall data of 200 rainfall stations across Gujarat.
Shyamal Gupta is the Chief Business Officer of NATIONAL COLLATERAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES LIMITED (NCMSL). NCMSL is engaged to set new standards in the area of risk management for commodities and inventories. Incorporated and registered under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956 NCMSL has been jointly promoted by several Leading Banks in the country, NCDEX, IFFCO and other co-operative bodies and a global collateral manager based at Geneva.