'No worry signal' over Indian monsoon season

India's monsoon, vital to hundreds of millions of farmers and of crucial importance to the economy, will likely be normal this year, a report said Monday.

"So far, there is no worry signal," D. Sivananda Pai, head of long-range monsoon forecasting at India's Meteorological Department, told Dow Jones News Wires.

Last year, India got below-normal rain in the first half of the June to September wet season. The rains picked up in some areas later, but large areas of west and south India did not benefit.

This year, central parts of the western state of Maharashtra, India's biggest sugar-producer, are reeling from the worst drought in over four decades while the southern state of Andhra Pradesh is also parched.

More than 70 percent of Indians depend on farm incomes, and at least 60 percent of the nation's farms lack irrigation, meaning they depend entirely on the rains that fall in intense bursts over the wet season.

The Congress-led national government's hopes of over six percent economic growth this financial year -- up from an estimated decade low of five percent last year -- hinge on India receiving a normal monsoon.

The weather official's comments came the same day as the deputy Maharashtra state chief minister Ajit Pawar apologised for remarks suggesting "urinating" in dams could raise their water levels.

The opposition had condemned Pawar's statements as "a cruel joke on the drought-hit population of the state".

Pawar told the Maharashtra state assembly that he was sorry over his comments and promised that drought-relief measures "will continue vigorously".