The Union government on Friday granted Gujarat Rs.425 crore for rural drinking water supply and agreed to consider the State’s demand for an assistance of Rs.14,673 crore to meet the acute drought conditions.
The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on drought, headed by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, along with officials, on Thursday held a meeting with Chief Minister Narendra Modi, his Cabinet colleagues and officials.
Later, Mr. Ramesh said the grant for rural water supply would be released within a month-and-half. The EGoM also agreed to consider the State’s demand for extending employment opportunities from 100 days year to 150 days under the MGNREGA in the drought-hit areas.
Mr. Pawar asked the State authorities to bifurcate the financial demand into short-term requirements and long-term needs. The EGoM, at a meeting in Delhi on August 7 and 8, would consider the State’s requirements.
Presenting a memorandum to the EGoM, Mr. Modi said the deficiency in average rainfall so far was as high as 79 per cent in the Kutch-Saurashtra region and 58 per cent in the north Gujarat region.
Mr. Modi sought changes in the Central policy for drought relief, including leaving 30 per cent of the Central drought relief funds for spending by State governments at their own discretion and to increase the existing assistance of Rs.3,000 an hectare in the rain-fed areas for drinking water, cattle camps, fodder, cash doles, seeds, transportation, and other requirements.
Mr. Modi claimed that amounts for immediate drought relief packages from regular budgeted accounts were inadequate and advance instalments too slow. The Centre could make a provision for contingency expenditure in the budget and disburse the necessary amount without delay. Progressive States such as Gujarat should be given higher allocations for effective management of funds and State agencies allowed to directly import edible oil. Mr. Modi also sought immediate sanction for raising the level of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada to enable the State to store more water.