Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday assured an all-party delegation led by Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda that the Cabinet would discuss Karnataka's demand for interim relief of at least Rs. 1,500 crore to immediately undertake relief measures in view of the severe drought in 24 of the 28 districts.
The delegation wanted the Centre to allot three lakh tonnes of rice and 57,200 tonnes of wheat as additional foodgrains for families living below the poverty line.
On the Central assistance sought by the delegation — as drought in 123 of 176 taluks in 24 districts has caused crop loss totalling Rs. 5,864 crore — the Prime Minister said the Union government would sympathetically consider the request after a Central team, to be sent to the drought-affected areas this week, submitted its report.
The delegation, which also included Leaders of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and the Council Siddaramaiah and Motamma respectively, met Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar with a similar demand and sought immediate action by the Centre.
Mr. Pawar said an official team from the Agriculture Ministry would visit the State in two days to assess the situation.
The Chief Minister told the Central leaders that Karnataka had already initiated drought relief measures and had so far spent Rs. 562.55 crore towards relief operations.
“The Government of India has approved an assistance of Rs. 186.86 crore under the National Disaster Relief Fund but has released only Rs. 70.23 crore. We are awaiting the release of the balance of Rs. 116.45 crore,” Mr. Gowda told mediapersons later.
The Karnataka team also urged Dr. Singh to immediately bring a constitutional amendment to Article 371 D to confer special status for the development of six backward districts in the Hyderabad Karnataka region in the State.
The other requests made by them included enhancement of customs duty on silk yarn from 5 per cent to 30 per cent to protect sericulturists and silk reelers; support for toor, pomegranate, potato, arecanut, paddy, turmeric and ginger growers; allotment of coal blocks for power projects and providing transmission corridors to allow Karnataka to draw power from the eastern, western and northern regions.
The State also wanted Bengaluru International Airport to be named after Kempe Gowda.
As far as releasing water into the Krishna river from Koyna dam was concerned, the Prime Minister promised the delegation that he would take up the issue with the Maharashtra government.
Keywords: Karnataka drought