All districts, except Chennai, declared drought-hit; work days under MGNREGS increased to 150

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa announced in the Assembly on Friday that all districts in the State other than Chennai would be declared drought-hit and unveiled a host of relief measures that would cost about Rs. 2,143.60 crore, focussing on the crisis-ridden Cauvery delta.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said the number of days of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) would be increased from 100 to 150. In districts other than those in the delta, 3.34 lakh agricultural workers would be provided jobs under the scheme.

As was done in the case of the delta region, a committee of Ministers, headed by Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam, would go around the State to study the drought situation and submit a report, after which assistance would be provided.

Replying to the debate on the Governor’s address, Ms. Jayalalithaa said a total of 1.75 lakh farmers in the delta, covering an extent of 3.61 lakh acres, would be given immediate compensation of Rs. 15,000 an acre, if their yield loss was more than 50 per cent. The amount would cover disaster relief, farm insurance and special additional relief. In the normal course, those experiencing 50 per cent yield loss would get only Rs. 4,350 an acre under crop insurance cover and even this would take time.

Recalling her earlier announcement on payment of Rs. 8,692 an acre [in addition to an assistance of Rs. 5,000 under the State Disaster Relief Fund], she said that in respect of insured crops, the amount of Rs. 8,692 would be paid only in the event of 100 per cent yield loss.

For those experiencing less than 50 per cent yield loss, the assistance would depend on the average crop loss in such areas, after getting the nod of the insurance company.

Under the MGNREGS, 15,000 farm ponds would be created in the delta districts at a cost of Rs. 181 crore. Other works, costing Rs. 1,336 crore, would be taken up. Totally, agricultural workers in the delta would get wages to the tune of Rs. 1,517 crore through all the works.

The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries would execute projects, estimated to cost Rs. 47.85 crore, for the development of green fodder, concentrates and dry fodder, besides inland fisheries. To address the problem of drinking water shortage in the delta, works for Rs. 37.25 crore would be implemented.

As a sequel to the declaration of the districts as drought-hit, land tax, to be paid by farmers, would be waived. Cooperative crop loans would be rescheduled.