The drought situation in the country continues to worsen as over 400 million people now struggle from drought across many states.
The government has sanctioned aid worth thousands of crores of rupees among other relief measures to states with a deliberative meeting slated to be held on Wednesday when the comprehensive action plan to tackle the situation will be discussed and finalised.
“We calculate that over 400 million people are suffering from drought in the country at the moment. The government is on damage control mode. It has declared that Rs 1,100 crore will be sanctioned to states as unconditional drought relief. The Centre had kept funds of Rs 2,634 crore available to states as drought relief. It released Rs 819 crore as first installment and second installment of Rs 1100 crore is to be released,” an official in the National Disaster Relief Fund told this newspaper.
“Ideally, it is the state’s responsibility to handle this situation and they are armed with the State Disaster Relief Fund which is funded by the Centre and the state. The NDRF comes into picture when SDRF relief isn’t enough. But we are not going to abandon anyone in this natural calamity. Overall deficiency in rainfall during the last year was 14%, accounted in terms of long period average. That is a significant amount. The government is also operating water trains to far flung areas; we are helping people dig up deeper wells in their villages and advising on ways to save water,” the source said.
Officials said that the most important thing to focus at the moment is saving water and for the states to report accurate and complete data on water shortage situations so that help can be provided to them. The states of Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have altogether received Rs 13,496 crore as drought relief from the National Disaster Relief Fund during 2015-16. According to the Central Water Commission aforementioned are the states worst affected from the drought.
“We will hold a meeting of officials from the MHA, ISRO, IMD, Geological Survey of India, Central Water Commission and other departments. The Prime Minister has already called ISRO and IMD into action. The government needs data to analyse the situation and plan for the future. Hence we are carrying out detailed geospatial analysis and geographic information system mapping with the help of remote sensing satellite imagery. We are tracking the monsoon diligently. Drought impacts economic, social and environmental dimensions of the country… so the government has made it priority,” he added. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last week directed the water ministry to disburse the relief amount to states without delay. At least 250 states in the country are struggling from drought at the moment.
“We have seen two bad monsoons. The country has suffered two very bad drought years. We have expected a favourable monsoon this year according to trends but we can’t say for sure till it arrives. Crop production has gone for a toss and farmers have been committing suicide throughout the country. The situation is much more serious than what it appears to be,” Rajesh Kumar, agricultural scientist, told this newspaper.
Emergency deliberation meetings have been going on since the last few weeks and several ministries and departments will meet on Wenesday to form a comprehensive strategy to ascertain their collective preparedness for the south west monsoon. The ministries/departments deliberating include Ministry of Home Affairs, India Meteorological Department, Central Water Commission, Geological Survey of India and Indian Space Research Organisation among others.
“Government officials have visited us in the last few days to take stock of the situation and promised relief. We can only wait. We have started to see cracks in the ground. The land is completely parched and it is a herculean task to acquire even drinking water for us, let alone water for irrigating farmlands. The only respite now is the monsoon, which also is a good month away,” Devender Sehrawat, professor of sustainable development who advises on farming practices in Hissar, Haryana, told this newspaper. The Prime Minister recently met Chief Ministers of various states including Uttar Pradesh and ordered relief to the states in the form of relief through NDRF, water trains, relief fund and more.