The Supreme Court Tuesday urged the central government to release funds in time for MGNREGA to drought-hit states.
“The money should be released in advance so that work does not get hampered. Nobody is here to criticise the government. The only point being made is delay in payments, which is undeniable and totally unacceptable,” observed a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur.
The court also directed the Centre to submit a detailed chart of 10 drought-hit states and specify the number of people and districts, including villages, affected by it. It further sought details about the notification on declaration of drought and budgetary allocations of NDRF and State Disaster Response Fund.
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Arguing for the central government, Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha said, “The power to declare drought is completely vested with the states. (The) Centre has no role other than providing funds, if required, and placing a monitoring system. Once drought is declared, incidental steps like providing money and relief work follow. Your lordship can very well pass an order if it feels a state should have declared drought.”
At this, the bench questioned Narasimha about the Centre’s role when a state has not declared drought but the situation is very serious. The ASG replied that in a federal structure, declaration of drought fell completely under states’ responsibility.