The Centre on Thursday declared “the highest relief package in recent years” of over Rs. 2892 crore for seven States including drought-hit Maharashtra to deal with the impact of calamities.

It also revised the guidelines for relief under “crop loss” and raised the assistance by 50 per cent in all categories including rain-fed and irrigated areas and for perennial crops. The expenditure for cattle at camps, including the cost of medicines and water supply, was also raised.

The decisions were taken at a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Drought headed by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. The relief package, to be released from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF), will be implemented from March 1.

Briefing journalists, Mr. Pawar said, “There were number of proposals from various States demanding central assistance to address drought situation, floods and landslides in 2012. We have approved the relief package, which is highest in the recent years.”

The total relief package for Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Gujarat, Kerala and Uttarakhand is Rs. 2,892.61 crore, excluding the funds allocated for cattle camp in Maharashtra.

The package for Maharashtra was arrived based on the report of a central team that did spot assessment of the affected regions. The State government had demanded Rs. 1801 crores. The EGoM approved Rs. 1,207.84 crore for Maharashtra, Rs. 864.71 crore for Gujarat and Rs. 66.61 crore for Kerala to tackle drought and also Rs. 54.49 crore relief package to Kerala that suffered floods last year.

Other than that, Rs. 417.12 crore has been approved for Andhra Pradesh in the wake of cyclone Neelam, Rs. 115.32 crore for Himachal Pradesh, Rs. 93.76 crore for Sikkim and Rs. 72.76 crore for Uttarakhand due to cloud burst, floods and landslides.

Mr. Pawar said the drought situation in (western and Marathwada) region of Maharashtra was the worst in the last 40 years and that the EGoM had taken additional measures to help farmers meet the situation.

From the Agricultural Ministry’s funds under the Horticulture Mission, the EGoM sanctioned a special scheme of rejuvenation of orchards in the drought affected regions of Maharashtra. Under this, the Centre will bear 50 per cent cost, while the rest will come from the farmer.

Under the revised guidelines, the input subsidy for more than 50 per cent crop loss has been raised for rain-fed areas from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4500 per hectare; for irrigated area raised from Rs. 6000 to Rs. 9000 per hectare and for perennial crops raised from Rs. 8000 to Rs. 12,000 per hectare.

The Minister said for higher provision of drinking water and cattle camps beyond 90 days, Maharashtra should propose a Special Scheme for Approval.

This is the third time that Maharashtra has been given assistance to tide over the prolonged drought in Marathwada and western Maharashtra regions. Earlier, it was sanctioned Rs. 778 crore and Rs. 500 crore before kharif of 2012 along with other drought-hit States.

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