Millennium Post

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the Centre for not complying with its directions to supply food grains to drought-affected states. It also asked the Union government to prepare relief measures for affected regions and not to repeat previous “mistakes” by “not declaring drought on time”. A two-bench judge looking over the matter said the National Food Security Act was being “violated with impunity” as 13 states hit by drought last year had not formed commissions under the act. Central and state governments are doing far too little to implement the National Food Security Act, three years after it came into force. Had the legislation been in place, more than 80 percent of rural households in the poorer states would be able to secure about half of their monthly cereal requirements almost free of cost. In a drought situation, food security entitlements should be made universal. This is not the first time that the Apex Court has warned the Centre and state governments. In May, the court had ordered them not to hide behind the “smokescreen of lack of funds” and instead, provide immediate relief for drought affected citizens. To the uninitiated, the order sought to reverse the erstwhile state policy on droughts, which merely moves from one crisis to another. The court directed both the Centre and various state governments to implement the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the National Food Security Act (NFSA), among other entitlements that they have failed to deliver, especially during times of distress. In addition to basic entitlement programmes, India has significantly improved its ability to forecast and track droughts, especially in the past decade. Despite the availability of these resources, governments continue to adopt outdated methods. In its order, the Apex Court directed the Union government to revise the Drought Management Manual at the earliest till the end of 2016. The Centre claimed on Wednesday that it was taking steps to revise its drought policy as per the court’s directions. The revision process will be completed by December, it said.
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