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Declare drought: opposition; government says taking steps

Posted on Jul 09 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, July 9 : The central government Wednesday assured it will take all steps to mitigate the effects that may occur owing to deficient monsoon, in response to opposition's demand to declare drought.

Responding to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on deficient rainfall and a possibility of drought, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh shared the concerns of the house.

"The government has drawn up adequate contingency plans for 500 districts in the country to deal with any drought-like situation," he said.

"...There would be no dearth of drinking water and fodder for cattle," he said, adding he hoped the rainfall will be sufficient.

Earlier, participating in the discussion, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav described the situation in northern India as "bad".

"The situation is bad in northern India due to drought, especially in regions where paddy is grown. This will affect not just the present but the next crop as well," he said.

Janata Dal-United's K.C. Tyagi said sowing was already less than average. "Why is drought not being declared?"

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Brajesh Pathak urged the government to announce a financial package for farmers.

Congress member and former environment minister Jairam Ramesh urged the government to make a contingency plan to mitigate the effects of a possible drought.

He underlined the importance of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in this context.

"In all drought-notified (areas), guaranteed employment in public work for 150, not 100, days should be given," he said.

"The cost of the additional 50 days should be borne by the central government."

Jairam Ramesh also urged the government to study the climate change vis-a-vis agriculture.

"Indian monsoon is changing. Today, the monsoon is not what it was 10-20 years back. Overall rainfall has not changed but the pattern and distribution have changed," he said.

"We must realise the reality of climate change and we need to embrace new techniques to fight (this)."

Nationalist Congress Party leader and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said the central government should support states to tide over the crisis.

"Government should also give directions to co-operative banks and Nabard to help farmers in loan and interest payment. We must also prepare prepare to meet the shortfall which may arise in production in the Rabi crop," he said.

Rainfall deficit is maximum in central India at 63 percent, with severe shortfall in Gujarat region (91 percent) followed by Marathwada (80 percent), Saurashtra and Kutch (78 percent) and western Madhya Pradesh (76 percent), according to the India Meteorological Department.

Sowing area of kharif crops across the country this year is down 43 percent at 182.4 lakh hectares, the agriculture ministry has said.

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