Close to half of the country is reeling under drought or drought-like situation with the number of districts affected rising to 246 as a poor monsoon has brought 29 per cent less rainfall, damaging standing crop.

"Ten States have declared 246 districts as drought-affected. It comes to about 46-47 per cent of total

districts in the country. This year there is 29 per cent less rainfall. This has affected crops in many States," Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on the sidelines of a meeting with State Food Ministers here.

As the number of districts witnessing drought has been revised sharply upwards from 207 just two days ago, the government said its main focus would now be on saving the standing crop and offsetting some losses in output during the coming Rabi season.

"First, our top priority is to save the standing crop. For this, (all affected) States can give subsidy on diesel and power to save crops, if required," Mr. Pawar said.

"Punjab and Haryana have informed the Centre that paddy crop in the State will be saved," he said adding, however, that these two States have also said productivity would be lower this time due to less water supply.

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