A two-member Inter-ministerial Central team has on Thursday criss-crossed the villages in the drought-hit western mandals of the semi-arid Chittoor district. Though the two senior officials-Selvaraj from the Central Ground Water Department and Deenadayalan from the Union Ministry of Urban Development-were here to study the impact of the drought, they had to conduct their field study with the help of umbrellas as heavy rains continued to lash the arid track for the second consecutive day on Thursday under the influence of a low pressure.

The team accompanied by the State Nodal Officer(Drought) S.S. Rawat and the District Collector V. Seshadri visited villages dotting the Chinnagottigallu, Piler, CTM, Madanapalle mandals and saw three huge dried up agricultural tanks, some irrigation wells and withering ground nut crop- the worst casualty in the drought accounting for a loss of about Rs.108 cr.

The villagers during their interaction with the team urged the officials not to be misled by the untimely rains currently lashing the district and also by the lush green bushes along their route as they were only weeds and shrub jungles which sprouted in the late rains.

Much to the relief of the farmers and the district administration, the central team officials dispelled their fears saying that they were well aware of the situation and would keep all factors in mind while submitting their report-possibly in two weeks after a final round of meeting with the concerned group of ministers.

The two officials also admitted that the drought in the district was indeed grim and the crop yield, especially ground nut, was not even 50 per cent. Some farmers told the team members that they ran into huge debts as they had to leave their fields fallow due to the drought and faced even acute fodder shortage for their cattle. At one village farmers agreed that the NREGS has indeed come in handy for them to eke out a livelihood during the last four months. The officials were appraised of the acute drinking water scarcity in Madanapalle town.

Before they set out, the Central team watched a power point presentation given on the drought by the district administration. Nagari MLA and the TDLP’s Deputy Leader Gali Muddukrishnama Naidu submitted a memorandum highlighting the devastating effect of the drought in the State as a whole and in Chittoor district as well. He regretted that there was no response yet from the Central government for the State government’s request to release at once Rs.9, 971 cr for launching the relief and rehabilitation measures in the affected areas.