Bangalore, July 21 (IANS) Ahead of this year's festival season, Karnataka is staring at the worst drought in around 40 years, rising prices and little hope of early end to the political instability that has been the bane of the state for the last eight years.
The festive season gets off next week with a major Hindu festival of Varamahalakshmi Vratha or the worship of wealth goddess Lakshmi July 27.
But there is little to celebrate as prices of vegetables, fruits and pulses have been on the rise across the country for months now and in Karnataka there is the added spectre of severe drought, unless monsoon turns benevolent soon.
Vegetables and fruits cost 30 percent to 50 percent more now than three months ago. The prices, which are generally jacked up on the eve of festivals in view of the demand, will rule higher in the coming weeks if the dry weather continues.
A popular variety of plantain - Elakki bale or Elaichi banana - now comes at Rs.60 a kg as against Rs.45 a kg three months ago.
Beans are being sold at Rs.60 a kg, carrot at around Rs.45 a kg and tomato about Rs.20 a kg. Orange is selling at Rs.67 a kg, while mosambi is at Rs.57 a kg.
With rains failing and groundwater getting depleted, production too is affected, adding to the woes.
The monsoon usually hits Karnataka in the first week of June and lasts till September end with the state average rainfall for the four-month season being around 800mm.
However between June 1 and July 19 the state's average rainfall has just been 215 mm instead of the normal 365 mm for this period, meteorological department statistics show.
The department says that of the 30 districts in the state, excess rain has been recorded only in one district, normal in four, while rainfall has been deficient in 21 districts and scanty in four.
Out of 176 talukas, the state government has declared 150 (revenue sub-divisions) as drought-hit and has been desperately pleading with the central government for immediate release of Rs.2,000 crore to provide relief to the affected people.
Bangalore, known for its salubrious weather, has received very poor rainfall in June as well as July. In the last two months, there has been 44 percent deficiency in rainfall in the Bangalore urban area.
Instead of average 122 mm of rainfall between June 1 and July 19, the city received just 68 mm.
Rural areas of Bangalore and surrounding districts, on which the city depends for its vegetable and fruit supplies, have been worst hit with average rainfall being just 50 percent of the normal for the season.
With two more months to go for the rainy season to end, the government, farmers as well as consumers are hoping that more downpour would end the bad spell.
The hope, however, is accompanied by increasing concerns.
Continuing instability of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is expected to lead to early assembly elections, thus further shifting the focus of political parties from the mounting problems of the people to the polls.
The elections are due next May.
However, with the BJP forced to form its third government in four years because of dissidence, the political parties are already getting ready for early elections in December.
But they fear that a clear verdict in favour of any single party may remain as elusive as monsoon this year, irrespective of whether the polls are held this year-end or May next.