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Q. Explain the origin, progress and retreat of the Indian monsoon. Discuss its impact on Indian economy.


  • The Indian monsoon can be described as sub-tropical monsoon.
  • The word monsoon derived from Arabic word “Mausim” which means seasonal reversal in the wind direction.
  • The monsoons are experienced in the tropical area roughly between 20° N and 20° S.

The Origin of the Monsoon:

  • There are several concepts for the origin of the Indian monsoon mainly:
    • According to Halley thermal concept in 1686, the primary cause to the annual cycle of the Indian monsoon circulation was the differential heating effects of the land and the sea.
    • The dynamic concept by Flohn explains monsoon is the result of seasonal migration of planetary winds and pressure belts.
  • But in recent times it is now believed that the differential heating of land and sea cannot produce the monsoon circulation. More recent theories have laid greater emphasis on the circulation in atmosphere over the subcontinent and the adjoining areas. Apart from the upper atmospheric circulation, recent concepts rely heavily on the role of the Tibetan Plateau, jet streams, and the El-Nino (Southern Oscillation) .

The Progress of the Monsoon:

  • The Monsoon, unlike the trades, are not steady winds but are pulsating in nature affected by different atmospheric conditions encountered by it, on its way over the warm tropical seas.
  • The duration of the monsoon is between 100 - 120 days from early June to mid-September.
  • Around the time of its arrival, the normal rainfall increases suddenly and continues constantly for several days.
  • The monsoon arrives at the southern tip of the Indian peninsula generally by the first week of June.
  • Subsequently, it proceeds into two – the Arabian Sea branch and the Bay of Bengal branch
  • By the mid of July the monsoon reaches the entire country.

Retreating Monsoon

  • Retreating monsoon season commences with the beginning of the withdrawal of the south-west monsoon
  • It is a 3-month long process where it starts from the peninsula in October and from the extreme south-eastern tip by December.
  • The south-west monsoons withdraw from the Coromandel Coast in mid-December. In Punjab, the south-west monsoons withdraw from there in the second week of September. During this period, the temperature comes down sharply.
  • The sky also becomes clear. The most severe and destructive tropical cyclones are originated in the Indian seas and the Bay of Bengal during the retreating monsoons. It is during the retreating monsoon season in India that the southeastern coast receives a lot of rainfall; tropical cyclones also occur during this time.
  • The state of Tamil Nadu receives almost half of its annual rainfall during this time. This is called the winter monsoon or the northeast monsoons.

The effect on Indian economy:

  • The monsoon is the lifeblood for India՚s farm-dependent $ 2 trillion economy, as at least half the farmlands are rain-fed. The country gets about 70 % of annual rainfall in the June-September monsoon season, making it crucial for an estimated 263 million farmers.
  • About 800 million people live in villages and depend on agriculture, which accounts for about 15 % of India՚s gross domestic product (GDP) and a failed monsoon can have a rippling effect on the country՚s growth and economy.
  • Whereas, a normal to above-normal and well-distributed monsoon boosts farm output and farmers՚ income, thereby increasing the demand for consumer and automotive products in rural markets.
  • The monsoon has a direct impact on the country՚s agricultural GDP. The planting of key kharif, or summer, crops like rice, sugar cane, pulses and oilseeds begins with the arrival of monsoon rains in June.
  • Summer crops account for almost half of India՚s food output and a delayed or poor monsoon means supply issues and acceleration in food inflation, a key metric which influences Reserve Bank of India՚s decision on interest rates.
  • A deficit monsoon could also lead to a drought-like situation, thereby affecting the rural household incomes, consumption and economic growth. A poor monsoon not only leads to weak demand for fast-moving consumer goods, two-wheelers, tractors and rural housing sectors but also increases the imports of essential food staples and forces the government to take measures like farm loan waivers, thereby putting pressure on finances. Whereas a normal monsoon results in a good harvest, which in turn lifts rural incomes and boosts spending on consumer goods. It also has a positive impact on hydro power projects.