a) Monsoon’s here

The arrival of the monsoon along India’s shores on May 30, with a meteorological forecast for rainfall that would almost match the normal average of 89 cm, is cause for cheer. It appears that the official forecaster, the India Meteorological Department (IMD), is less apprehensive now about the negative impact of a late-onset El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, since it expects a favourable swing in Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures to act as a counter. This year’s summer monsoon rainfall will be studied closely for more than one reason. The IMD is using an improved dynamic forecasting model that relies on high-grade computing after several years of of-the-mark predictions, and its accuracy will be tested. In the area of agricultural productivity, a second consecutive year of normal rainfall will improve the prospects of higher output from the 60% of farmland that is without irrigation facility. Combined with the benefit of low oil prices, and thus low inflation, this could spur rural prosperity. Giving rural residents a better deal is imperative. Even with ongoing urbanisation, there is a need to improve the socio-economic infrastructure in villages, starting with health, education and housing. It is also important to relieve a significant section of rural residents from debt. The All-India Debt and Investment Survey, conducted by the National Sample Survey Office in the 70th round during January-December 2013, showed that 31.44% of rural households were in debt. There will also be variations. Indications are that Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Goa and parts of Tamil Nadu may get less than average rainfall this year, while Kerala, Karnataka and the Western Ghats region could get more than the normal. Preparing for rainfall variations between years and among geographic regions should be a policy goal, but this has not received the needed attention. The long-term neglect is reflected in the lack of irrigation facility for more than half of all productive land. A good year is a time to prepare for the future, and if 2017 concludes with a bountiful monsoon and harvest as expected, the Centre and the States should focus on creating the infrastructure that will build resilience against droughts. State governments need to prepare cities and towns for the monsoon on a continuous basis. Clearing of urban waterways and creation of new reservoirs are absolute necessities, since flooding has assumed crippling proportions on the one hand, while municipal supply of drinking water is unable to meet new demand from expansion of housing. Unchecked pollution is making a lot of naturally harvested water unproductive, with poor management of solid waste in cities turning lakes into cesspools. A good monsoon is described by economists as a four-month-long swing factor for the national economy, more so because it generates millions of direct farm jobs. That should make it a central policy concern, with efforts made to tap every drop.

b) The Kumble factor

The Indian cricket team should have been exuding confidence as it begins its title defence in the ICC Champions Trophy in England from June 1 to 18. It comes off a long and successful season at home, and in the normal course of things the buzz would be about India’s match against Pakistan at Birmingham on June 4, given how rarely the traditional rivals play each other these days. However, all is not right in the dressing room, and there is distracting speculation about an imminent change in leadership. It started with the Board of Control for Cricket in India calling for fresh applications for the head coach’s post since the incumbent, Anil Kumble’s one-year contract will end after the Champions Trophy. The BCCI clarified that Kumble would have a direct entry for the process, but the last minute scramble, just as Virat Kohli’s men landed in England, raised questions. There had been enough time for the Board to take a call on the head coach, whether it meant retaining Kumble or opting for a new candidate. It did not come as a surprise, therefore, when leaks surfaced about Kumble seeking a higher pay package for the Indian players and support staff. Disgruntled BCCI officials painted Kumble as a man extracting his pound of flesh, and the anti-Kumble campaign was sharpened with suggestions that Kohli is not comfortable with his “overbearing” ways. Such talk about differences between coach and skipper does nobody any good. Whatever be the nature of their alleged differences, the Kumble-Kohli combination has delivered excellent results. While there could be the odd difference of opinion, on the field it is entirely the captain’s call on how to guide the team. Last year in the West Indies, when Kohli preferred Rohit Sharma over Murali Vijay in the third Test at Gros Islet, Kumble backed his decision. Victory in the West Indies and a golden run at home against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia are a testament to Kumble’s and Kohli’s man-management skills and a validation of the talent within the ranks. The unsavoury tidbits planted in the media about Kumble are a terrible contrast to the can-do spirit with which he took charge as coach in June 2016. Now, the Cricket Advisory Committee comprising Kumble’s former team-mates Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman has an unenviable task. They have to sift through fresh applications, besides having to assess Kumble’s performance, and then take a call on who should be the head coach. Positions of authority in cricket teams usually have a four-year cycle coinciding with the World Cup. Ideally, the next head coach, be it Kumble or somebody else, should be given a contract till the 2019 World Cup in England. The focus must be on the demands of cricket.


1) Apprehensive

Meaning: Feeling worried about something that you are going to do or that is going to happen.

Example: I’m very apprehensive about tomorrow’s meeting.

Synonyms: Worried, Tense

Antonyms: Confident

2) Prospects

Meaning: The idea of something that will or might happen in the future.

Example: I’m very excited at the prospect of seeing her again.

Meaning: A good view of a large land area or of a city.

Example: From the restaurant there was a marvellous prospect of/over the valley and the mountains beyond.

Synonyms: Hope, Expectation

3) Imperative

Meaning: Of vital importance; crucial.

Example: “Immediate action was imperative.”

Synonyms: Essential, Critical

Antonyms: Unimportant, Optional

4) Bountiful

Meaning: Large in amount; Generous in giving to others.

Example: We found a bountiful supply of coconuts on the island.

Synonyms: Abundant, Plentiful

Antonyms: Meagre

5) Resilience

Meaning: Able to quickly return to a previous good condition.

Example: This rubber ball is very resilient and immediately springs back into shape.

Synonyms: Flexibility, Pliability

Antonyms: Weakness, Rigidity

6) Exuding

Meaning: If you exude love, confidence, pain, etc., you show that you have a lot of that feeling.

Example: She just exudes confidence.

Synonyms: Release, Discharge

Antonyms: Absorb

7) Buzz

Meaning: To press a buzzer in order to get someone’s attention.

Example: I buzzed him but there was no answer.

Synonyms: Hum, Murmur

8) Speculation

Meaning: The activity of guessing possible answers to a question without having enough information to be certain.

Example: Speculation about his future plans is rife.

Synonyms: Conjecture, Guess

9) Imminent

Meaning: Coming or likely to happen very soon.

Example: A strike is imminent.

Synonyms: Close, Near

Antonyms: Remote

10) Incumbent

Meaning: Officially having the named position.

Example: The incumbent president faces problems which began many years before he took office.

Synonyms: Mandatory, Necessary

Antonyms: Optional

11) Scramble

Meaning: To move or climb quickly but with difficulty, often using your hands to help you.

Example: She scrambled up the steep hillside and over the rocks.

Synonyms: Climb, Crawl

12) Overbearing

Meaning: Too confident and too determined to tell other people what to do, in a way that is unpleasant.

Example: Milligan had a pompous, overbearing father.

Synonyms: Autocratic, Tyrannical

Antonyms: Humble

13) Testament

Meaning: Proof.

Example: The detail of her wildlife paintings is (a) testament to (= proof of) her powers of observation.

Meaning: A will that someone makes, saying what should be done with their money and property after they die.

Example: This article will give clear instructions for making a last will and testament.

Synonyms: Witness, Evidence

14) Unenviable

Meaning: An unenviable duty or necessary action is unpleasant or difficult.

Example: I had the unenviable task of cleaning up after the party.

Synonyms: Difficult, Disagreeable

Antonyms: Enviable, Desirable

15) Pound of flesh

Meaning: Something that you have the right to receive but is unreasonable to demand from someone.

Example: Despite the sport demanding its pound of flesh, financially and physically, he managed to pull his weight for four full years.