States declare drought, not centre: Pawar
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Tuesday noted that 400 out of the 627 districts in India had received deficient rainfall but said it was for the states to declare a drought.
"The centre does not do that...it is for the states to declare drought in their districts," Pawar told reporters after he headed a meeting of an empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on drought here.
Though Pawar said the number of districts with deficient rains was more this year as compared to 2009 (246), Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna said the intensity was almost the same.
Stating that rainfall deficiency was 20 percent overall up to July 30 as compared to 29 percent in June, Pawar said water level in reservoirs was 55 percent of last year.
As a result, sowing for the summer season crop (kharif) was 58 lakh hectare less this year at 666 lakh hectare against a normal of 724 lakh hectare, he said.
Rice, the major summer crop, along with coarse grains and pulses has taken a hit because of deficient rains in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat, said Pawar.
He said the consumer affairs ministry has been asked to submit a proposal to sell subsidised pulses through government outlets.
Expressing hope that rains would improve by Aug 15 when the sowing season ends, he assured that district-level contingency plans were in motion and there were adequate stocks of seeds for alternate crops in the states.
The EGoM announced a slew of subsidies to augment supply of drinking and ground water, to compensate the farmers who operate diesel pumps to irrigate the fields and a waiver on import of oil cakes to feed the livestock besides enhancing the existing subsidy on seeds.
The four affected states would get Rs.38 crore for drinking water schemes, Rs.453 crore for ground water supply and Rs.1,140 crore for an integrated water sharing sharing plan.
The central and the state governments would bear half the cost of diesel consumed in irrigating the fields on a 50:50 basis till September, said Pawar.
The states would also get Rs.50 crore for fodder production.
Pawar said he along with Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh would visit the affected states between Aug 1-3 and review the situation with the chief ministers.