Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday assured the Chief Ministers that the Union government was in a better position to tackle drought “without sapping the nation’s self-confidence” as there were enough stocks of wheat and rice in the central pool.

Intervening during the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security here, Dr. Singh said there was no need to panic as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme was in place, which the States needed to implement and monitor well.

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said while internal security was of paramount importance, food security was also a matter of “great concern.”

He said Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Nagaland, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

U.P. had declared drought — partly or wholly — owing to delayed or deficient monsoon. Jharkhand and Manipur had submitted memoranda seeking additional central assistance from the National Calamity Contingency Fund. “Considering the magnitude of the problem, the Centre has released the first instalment of the Calamity Relief Fund to Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and U.P.”

Mr. Pawar pointed out that while as a short-term strategy it was essential to save the standing crop, in the medium term there was need to create a national seed reserve of appropriate varieties of crop to meet crisis situations, to ensure strategic placement of fodder reserves, to support micro-irrigation in a mission mode and to set up drought monitoring centres for a more reliable and timely forecast and mitigations responses.

The Minister advised States to adopt area-specific strategy, and wherever possible, to go in for higher production of vegetables, horticulture and short-duration crops. On high prices of essential commodities, he said steps were taken to boost their availability.

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