But not a single person will go hungry, he assures people

In the wake of an alarmingly deficient monsoon, Bihar Chief Minister Mr. Nitish Kumar has declared the remaining 10 districts in the State also “drought afflicted.” Earlier this month, the government so declared 28 of the 38 districts. In his Independence Day address on Sunday, Mr. Kumar promised the people that the government would, however, tide over the crisis and “not a single person would go hungry.”

Political observers say the drought situation will be a major plank of the NDA government in the coming Assembly elections, as it will go all out to ensure effective handling of the crisis.

Mr. Kumar said the government had asked the Centre to give an additional 330 MW of power to help it provide farmers uninterrupted irrigation supply for five-six hours.

“In order to generate employment, I have ordered that at least two employment guarantee schemes should run efficiently in every panchayat.”

The government had also requested the Centre for an additional Rs.13, 456 crore to increase the labour budget from 31 to100 days to deal with employment problems in wake of the drought.

On Saturday, the Cabinet decided to release Rs. 570 crore as diesel subsidy from the State Contingency Fund to assist paddy and maize farmers.

The government is already giving farmers a diesel subsidy of Rs. 200 a hectare (at Rs. 20 a litre) for three rounds of irrigation for saving paddy.

Mr. Kumar earlier met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and submitted a memorandum seeking an urgent assistance of Rs. 5,062.75 crore to ensure the safety of livestock, provide relief, and make special food and drinking water arrangements.

On Friday, an eight-member Central team, which arrived in the State to review the situation, concurred with the State government's assessment.

“Paddy output has been very low; even the maize crop is severely affected due to the heat,” said Pankaj Kumar, Joint Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry.