As the drought situation in major parts of the country gets worse, the government on Tuesday announced a Rs 1,950-crore relief package for Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana, along with a 50 per cent subsidy on diesel for all low rainfall-affected farmers.
It also constituted a team chaired by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to tour the affected states in the next few days to assess the ground situation and take further steps.
Till date, around 400 of the 640 districts in the country have received deficient rain; in 2009, when there was the worst drought in 30 years, the number so affected was around 225. “The actual rainfall till date has been around 20 per cent below normal, while it has been around 31 per cent deficient in northwest India, 22 per cent less in south India and 10 per cent less in east and north India,” Pawar said.
In 2009, actual rainfall during the entire four-month monsoon season that starts from June was around 23 per cent below normal.
“We have decided to immediately grant an interim relief of around Rs 38 crore to the three major rainfall-deficient states of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, to supply drinking water in drought-affected districts,” Pawar told reporters after a meeting of the Empowered Group Of Ministers (EGoM) on drought.
The EGoM, which met on Tuesday for the first time since 2009, also decided to issue Rs 450 crore to Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana, under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme.
It also decided to give 50 per cent diesel subsidy in drought-affected districts, the cost to be equally shared between the central government and state governments.
Listing the other steps, Pawar said Rs 1,440 crore would be immediately released to various states under the integrated watershed management programme for drought-prone areas. In addition, the existing subsidy on seeds is to be enhanced.