The drought situation was among the worst since Independence and all that the government has done is to assure the country that it has enough foodgrains for the public distribution system, Janata Dal (United) President Sharad Yadav said here on Monday.

He demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh call a two-day meeting of all Chief Ministers to discuss the matter.

Mr. Yadav said the country was going through a very difficult and extraordinary situation with all of northern and central India affected by a serious drought.

The existing public distribution system (PDS) was not in good shape and the Centre must help to ensure that it delivers subsidised foodgrains to the most needy, he said. The government has said that talking about the drought would create panic and lead to hoarding thus pushing up prices, but it was now time to take steps to tackle the problem that would impoverish millions and lead to widespread hunger.

He suggested that while farmers should be given a fair price and consumers should be able to buy cereals, sugar and lentils at a reasonable rate , a way should be found to stop the loot by the middlemen. Not only was there a serious drought, but prices of cereals, sugar and lentils were at an all-time high and corruption had peaked. While MPs and MLAs were accountable to the people, “bureaucracy, the judiciary and the media,” Mr. Yadav said, seemed to have no accountability. He said unless bureaucrats too were held accountable, even well-intentioned government programmes like the NREGS would not reach the people, nor would food through the PDS.

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