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Updated: August 18, 2009 19:55 IST

Drought-hit States seek expansion of rural jobs scheme

Gargi Parsai
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A project under NREGS in progress at a village in Patna, Bihar. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar
A project under NREGS in progress at a village in Patna, Bihar. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

Even as the number of drought-hit districts has risen to 207 in the country, several States have demanded that the 100 days’ assured employment limit, under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme be raised to 200 days as a drought relief measure.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yedyurappa also pressed the demand with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar when they met him here on Tuesday to seek additional assistance for drought relief.

An 11-member inter-ministerial central team has been sent to Bihar, while another team would be sent to Karnataka soon. Bihar has declared 26 out of 38 districts as drought-affected, while in Karnataka, 20 out of 29 districts are hit by deficient monsoon.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said the state had been worst hit by poor monsoon. Only 25 per cent of the rice and maize output could be expected as 75 per cent of the crops had been damaged or could not be sown. “No alternate crop could also be sown because there was no rain,” he said, adding that the State had received 40 per cent deficient rainfall this kharif.

He sought an additional central funding to the tune of Rs. 23,071.13 crore including Rs. 10,000 crore for employment generation in addition to the NREGP (100 days) and another Rs. 10,000 crore Gratuitous Relief to provide 12.6 tonnes of foodgrains per month to 1.26 crore needy families for three months. The other assistance was for diesel and farm input subsidy, drinking water, power and minor irrigation. “Mr Pawar said he would take a decision soon on the memorandum submitted by us,’’ he said.

Speaking to journalists, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yedyurappa said it was the near-unanimous demand of the Chief Ministers at the internal security conference here on Monday to raise the employment guarantee limit under the NREGP to 200 days.

Seeking an additional central assistance of Rs. 395 crore from the National Calamity Contingency Fund, he said the State, particularly the northern region, had received the lowest rainfall in the last 40 years till August.

Over 35 lakh hectares had either been damaged or remained unsown due to monsoon deficiency, hitting the production of red gram, green gram, black gram, groundnut, sunflower, soya, bajra and sugarcane. Already the price of pulses, groundnut oil and sugar is high in the retail markets.

On Monday, Mr. Pawar said that nine States including Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Nagaland, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh were drought affected. The Central government had received memoranda for additional assistance from Jharkhand, Manipur and now Bihar and Karnataka.

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