The Supreme Court on Friday asked the states to appoint food commissioners to oversee effective implementation of Public Distribution System to tackle the drought crisis. It also directed the Centre to give compensation for delayed payment and crop loss to drought-hit farmers.
The apex court observed that the Centre simply can’t hide behind the lack of funds to not act on drought crisis. It said that mid-day meal in schools should be given throughout summer season in drought-affected areas.
Coming down heavily on the Centre, the SC said it should release outstanding funds for MNREGA. It also directed the Centre to set up Central Employment Guarantee Council as provided in the statute.
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On Wednesday, the SC told the Centre to consider drought as a disaster and constitute a national response force along with a consolidated fund within six months to deal with drought situations.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and N V Ramana also issued directives for updating the drought management manual – published in 2009 — after taking into account rainfall deficit, timely declaration of drought and other factors like dry land farming, water harvesting, drip irrigation etc.
“Humanitarian factors such as migration from affected areas, suicides, extreme distress, the plight of women and children are some of the factors that ought to be kept in mind by state governments in matters pertaining to drought and the Government of India in updating and revising the manual. Availability of adequate foodgrain and water is certainly of utmost importance but they are not the only factors required to be taken note of,” the bench said.
(With ENS and PTI inputs)