Concern grows over adverse impact on economy of drought conditions

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will visit four monsoon-deficient States next week as concern grows over the adverse impact on the economy of the drought conditions in parts of the country.

The States are Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The visit is meant for a first-hand assessment of the ground situation and the measures the Centre could initiate to tackle the crisis.

Kharif sowing, particularly in coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds, has been hit in parts of these States owing to a shortfall in the southwest monsoon rains.

Mr. Pawar has convened the first meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers on Drought on Tuesday. The EGoM has Finance, Food, Water and Rural Development Ministers as its members.

The meeting will look at the crop sowing position, food stocks, prices and water availability. It will consider requests from Punjab and Haryana for higher power allocation and diesel subsidy as farmers have to draw groundwater to irrigate paddy.

The government has prepared contingency plans for 320 districts where monsoon has been elusive, Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat told journalists on Monday.

The EGoM will also look at requests from the States for additional Central funding.

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