July 25, 2009 5:08:52 am
With the deficient monsoon adversely affecting the kharif crop in many states,the Central government has already started preparing for drought relief measures.
Briefing the Cabinet about the deficient monsoon and kharif crop prospects on Thursday,Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was learnt to have demanded that the high level committee on National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) be empowered to take final decisions regarding drought relief and relaxation of norms,if any,depending upon specific need of states.
Though none of the states have formally sought any assistance for drought relief as yet,Pawars demand was in anticipation of such demands from many states in the near future. The high level committee headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee includes Sharad Pawar,Home Minister P Chidambaram and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
So far,Manipur has declared drought in the entire state,while Assam and Jharkhand have declared drought in 14 and four districts,respectively. With Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also writing to Pawar for help,the Ministry is learnt to have asked Bihar to send specific details regarding affected regions so that a central inter-ministerial team can be deputed to assess the situation at the earliest.
Pawar has also asked the Cabinet to help farmers through a diesel subsidy for the kharif season,it learnt. Though,the exact proportion of the Centres share is not confirmed,sources in the Agriculture Ministry indicated that the financial burden could be equal to that of the states. However,the exact modalities of the diesel subsidy will have to be worked out as it cannot be extended from the plan allocation for agriculture in the Budget,and the non-plan allocation does not allow any grants to states. Sources said Pawar would be writing to the Finance Minister soon in this regard. Pawar also wants the Cabinet to instruct the Power Ministry to grant 100 MW additional power from the central pool to farmers in Punjab and Haryana for the next 15 days. This demand was over and above 100 MW of power already being released to the states to help farmers irrigation for kharif sowing.
With the deficient monsoon affecting crop sowing,thus reducing seasonal employment opportunities of farm hands,Pawar has also demanded that the 100-day employment guarantee limit under NREGS be expanded to help labourers.
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