Farmers group wants drought norms revised

Scrap drought rules of 2016, says AIKS

July 16, 2019 10:18 pm | Updated 10:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) on Tuesday demanded that the Centre scrap the Manual for Drought Management, 2016, which had changed the way that droughts are declared and the circumstances under which Central help can be sought by affected States.

The farmers group affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) also demanded relief measures for drought-hit areas, including compensation for crop losses, provision of free rations, waiver of loans and creation of jobs under MGNREGA.

Latest data from the India Meteorological Department show over half the country’s land area still faces rainfall deficits of more than 20% this monsoon season. Saurashtra and Kutch are the worst affected region, with a 60% deficit as of June 16, followed by Gangetic West Bengal, parts of Rajasthan, Haryana and Kerala. Across the Deccan peninsula — in Marathwada, Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu — the deficits hover in the 30-35% range.

“At the All India Kisan Council meeting over this weekend, our leaders from many parts of the country all spoke of how drought is affecting farmers in their areas,” said Vijoo Krishnan, AIKS joint secretary. “Rainfall is low, but even in areas where the deficit may not be high now, the rain has come late, affecting the sowing and growing of crops,” he added.

Mr. Krishnan asserted that before 2016, it was considered a drought year in a particular area if there was deficient rainfall and the crop yield was less than 50% of the average of the previous 10 years. States could draw support from the Calamity Relief Fund and the National Calamity Contingency Fund.

However, the Manual for Drought Management, issued by the Union Agriculture Ministry in 2016, brought in stringent new parameters. States are required to assess conditions using five indicators: rainfall, agriculture, soil moisture, hydrology and crop health. The Manual allows States to request for support from the National Disaster Response Fund if a drought is declared as “severe”. This can only happen if three impact indicators (apart from rainfall) fall into the “severe” category, he explained.

“These conditions are so stringent that an area may not be officially declared as facing a severe drought even while its farmers are suffering,” said Mr. Krishnan.

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