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Centre puts onus on states over drought, invites Oppn ire

Centre puts onus on states over drought, invites Oppn ire
Under attack over dealing with the drought that has hit 10 states, the Centre on Wednesday put the onus of addressing the situation on states, while insisting that it is doing its bit to provide relief to those affected.

“We should not fight between Centre and the state. The role of Centre and state is different. It is clearly defined in the Rules. We can’t change it. The Centre’s role is to monitor and the state’s role is to provide assistance and help the affected people at ground level,” Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said in Rajya Sabha.

“The Central government does its bit, but every state government should also do its best” in addressing the drought situation, he added.

Singh was replying to a short duration debate on drought situation, during which Opposition members criticised the Central government, saying it was not doing enough, including in the context of releasing adequate funds.

Members of Congress, Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) staged a walkout, expressing dissatisfaction over the minister’s reply.

Earlier, Singh insisted that farmers are a priority for the Central government. “I don’t know if we are facing the consequences because of previous government, but we know the prevailing situation and are taking adequate measures,” he said.

“We come from different states. We are all concerned about farmers. ...We should also try to see what we can do in our own states to tide over the situation,” he said.

Talking about the steps taken by the Centre, he said it has eased norms for providing relief and even the allocation for State Disaster Response Fund has been raised.

Singh said the Met Department has forecast above normal Monsoon this year and hoped for better agriculture production in 2016-17 crop year (July-June).

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, during her intervention in the debate, said almost 30 crore people are facing the brunt of summer heat and drinking water problem.

The problem has aggravated due to consecutive drought in last two years, which has brought down the water level in 91 reserviors, she said.

As per the Central Water Commission (CWC) data, the availability of water in 91 major reservoirs in the country is lower by 11 million cubic meters at present, she added. 

After the Agriculture Minister’s response, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “We are not satisfied with the minister’s reply. It is most unsatisfactory reply given by the government. That is why, we are walking out.” Members of JD(U), SP and BSP also walked out with Congress members.

Earlier, Azad, while promising to stand by the government, questioned why drought had not been declared as a national crisis. He also asked the Prime Minister had not called a meeting of all political parties as well as that of Chief Ministers of drought-hit states.

“It is a national crisis. The Opposition will stand with you. Don’t bring in politics. People are dying due to water shortage. Should PM not convene an all-party meeting as well as meeting of CM of all states?” Azad said. The opposition parties also pressed for completion of 312 pending irrigation projects in a timely manner to boost water supply for drinking purposes and agriculture.

They said the current allocation rate was less than half of what the states had demanded for 2015-16 to tide over the situation and asked the government to consider if more funds could be released to drought-hit states.

Govt not releasing sufficient funds to tackle drought: Oppn
Members in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday expressed concern over the acute drinking water crisis and rising number of farmer suicides in 11 drought-hit states, including Maharashtra. The Opposition has accused the government of not releasing adequate funds to these states.

Maintaining that drinking water problem has been severe this time, the members asked the government to complete 312 pending irrigation projects across the country in a timely manner to boost water supply for drinking purposes and agriculture.

They also asked the government to consider if more funds could be released to drought-hit states, saying the current allocation rate was less than half of what the states had demanded for 2015-16 to tide over the situation.

"Right now, 11 states are facing drought-like conditions. Whether in states or at the Centre, where there are different political parties, we must face the situation. We must rise above political lines and face the situation together," former Agriculture Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar said during a short debate on drought in the Upper House.

Among 11 states, UP is the worst affected, followed by MP, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
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