A tug of war is on between the Centre and state government over declaration of drought in Punjab. While the state has refused to declare drought, claiming it had mitigated the 59 per cent deficiency in rainfall by providing extra power, the Centre wants it to declare the drought.
Reason: If a state declares drought, the Centre has to provide only 50 per cent of the claim made by the state for compensating farmers for rise in input cost. Punjab has asked the Centre for Rs 2,350 crore as drought relief.
Explaining why the state does not want to declare drought, sources said that as per rules, a team of the Union government visits the state to access damage to crops and compensates accordingly. But the state farmers have combated the deficient monsoon by irrigating their crops by drawing from underground water. They have been able to help the country save 11 lakh metric tons of rice worth Rs 30,000 crore, the government has stated in a representation to the Centre.
The tug of war is significant in view of change in government at the Centre, since the ruling SAD-BJP combine, that was always alleging stepmotherly treatment at the hands of the UPA-II government, is trying hard to convince the incumbent government.
“In situations like drought, the Union government uses Disaster Relief Fund and the state has to pay 50 per cent of the amount before the relief is transferred to the farmers. When we have fought rain deficiency by irrigating our crop by alternative means and the drought is not visible on the ground, why should we declare drought? We have sown paddy on 28.13 lakh hectares, which is just 38,000 hectares less than the previous year’s area under paddy cultivation,” said an official. He added that this was possible because of extra electricity procured by the government by shelling out Rs 1,447 crore more than last year.
Moreover, the farmers have made huge expenditure on diesel for over 3 lakh agriculture pumps.
“Had the state government and farmers not taken these measures and spent more money, it would be almost impossible to save the estimated kharif crop of 158.21 lakh metric tons. The government as well as the farmers thus need to be compensated for these extra costs through special central assistance,” he said.
The representation also says that the government had given greater thrust to mitigate the drought instead of declaring it and allowing crops to suffer. In its contingency plan, the state had claimed that it would have to incur Rs 30 crore extra to restore rural drinking water supply infrastructure and Rs 20 crore on providing fodder to cattle in its proposal of Rs 2,330-crore special central assistance.
In addition, it also asked for compensation for extra cost by way of a bonus on MSP for paddy and a waiver on interest on crop loans availed by farmers for the 2014 kharif crop.