Agriculture is the mainstay of more than 70% of India's more than 1 billion population. Indian agriculture is predominantly rain-fed and depends on the spatial and temporal distribution of rains from southwest (JuneSeptember) and northeast (October-December) monsoons. A monsoon refers to seasonal alteration of atmospheric flow. The Indian subcontinent is predominantly characterized by a tropical monsoon climate, where climatic regimes are governed by rainfall rather than by temperature. The southwest monsoon accounts for 70-90% of the annual rainfall. The Technical Committee on Drought Prone Areas Program (DPAP) and the Desert Development Program (DDP) identified about 120 million ha of the country's land spread in 185 districts (in 13 states; figure 23.1) as drought prone (DPAP/DDP,1994).
Though the country as a whole receives an average annual rainfall of 1100 mm, the arid regions receive between 100 and 500 mm, and semiarid regions receive between 350 and 1500 mm of rainfall. Arid and semiarid regions of the country experience frequent droughts. The arid region in Rajasthan state produces 76% of pearl millet production of the country, but the average productivity is only 267 kg/ha for the whole of Rajasthan compared to 452 kg/ha for the country. Drought frequency is once in 2.5 years in arid zones and once in 4 years in semiarid regions (table 23.1).
India experienced droughts in 1792, 1804, 1812-13, 1833-34, 183839, 1848-49, 1850-51, 1853-54, 1868-69, 1877, 1891, 1896, 1899, 1905, 1911, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1941, 1951, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1974, 1979, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1999, and 2000. A higher frequency of drought occurred during 1891-20, 1965-90, 1997-2000, and 2002.
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