Even as the number of drought-hit districts has risen to 278, the affected 11 States have altogether sought additional Central assistance of Rs. 72,313.62 crore for relief including diesel subsidy to farmers.

Of this, Bihar has sought the highest (Rs. 23,071.13 crore), followed by Maharashtra (Rs. 15,059.64 crore), Rajasthan (Rs. 12,690.99 crore), Madhya Pradesh (Rs. 11,669.68 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (Rs. 7,789.14 crore).

An inter-ministerial group (IMG) headed by Union Agriculture Secretary T. Nanda Kumar will consider the reports of the Central teams on Friday. It will give its recommendations to the High-Level Committee that will take a view for additional assistance from the National Calamity Contingency Fund. Central teams that visited Bihar, Jharkhand and Manipur have submitted their reports that will be considered by the IMG.

Affected States

The drought-affected States include Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. But for Nagaland, all the States have submitted memoranda for aid. Central teams have visited all the affected States including Nagaland.

Of these Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur and Nagaland have declared the entire State as drought affected. Bihar has declared 26 districts out of 38 as drought affected. Karnataka has declared 20 of 29, Madhya Pradesh 37 of 50, Maharashtra 28 of 35, Rajasthan 26 of 33 and Uttar Pradesh has declared 58 of 71 districts as drought-hit.

According to highly placed sources, States have been released the first instalment of their entitlement under the Calamity Relief Fund for 2009-10 totalling Rs. 1,672.52 crore, “most of which was unspent.”

The IMG has had one meeting in which it discussed the crop prospects, reservoir positions and the availability of funds to States under various heads. The group has representation from the Department of Expenditure, Food and Consumer Affairs, Water Resources, Railways, Chemical and Fertilisers, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Department of Drinking Water and IMD.

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