A central team arrived on Wednesday to assess the impact of drought in parts of Karnataka, where the Government has declared 99 taluks as drought-hit.

Replying to a debate on the drought situation in the Legislative Assembly, Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said once the team files the report with the Centre after the two-day visit, the State would take out an all-party delegation to the Union Government to press for grant of funds towards drought-relief works.

He announced sanctioning of Rs 36 crore for drilling borewells in drought-hit areas.

Mr. Gowda said as on October end, the crop loss was to the tune of Rs 4,544.84 crore, adding, as per the Central norms, a memorandum has been submitted to the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar seeking additional relief funds of Rs 723.24 crore.

The Chief Minister listed various steps taken by the Government from early October towards drought-relief works.

“Funds are available with Deputy Commissioners in districts to take up relief works. There is no shortage of fodder anywhere in the State,” Mr. Gowda said, rejecting the Opposition Congress and JDS charge that the Government lacked seriousness in tackling the scarcity situation.

Mr. Gowda said 956 farmers have killed themselves in the State since 2008 but added such suicides have come down “significantly” in recent months. He gave farmers’ suicide figures of the neighbouring Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to suggest that such numbers were lower in Karnataka.

Countering Mr. Gowda’s claim, leader of the opposition Siddaramaiah (Congress), citing a magazine report that quoted figures of the national and state crime records bureau, said 6,000 farmers had committed suicide in the state in the past three years.

Farmers’ suicides are counted only if they have land-holding, have taken loans from cooperation sector or commercial banks and it is proved they ended their lives because of the loans they have taken, he said, asserting many deaths don’t fall in this category.

“If you have funds, why have you not paid money to farmers who suffered crop loss,” Mr. Siddaramaiah asked.

He demanded that the government fund the crop insurance premiums of small and marginal farmers as well as those belonging to SCs and STs.

The Congress staged a walk-out from the House, with Mr. Siddaramaiah saying the opposition members were unhappy with the Chief Minister’s reply and the government lacked seriousness in dealing with the drought situation.