Task force on drought to consider demand for more relief

NEW DELHI June 26. The high-level task force on drought led by the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, is likely to consider the demands of the drought-hit States for additional Central assistance at a meeting here on June 30. This was indicated here today by the Union Agriculture Minister, Rajnath Singh.

Addressing a press conference, Mr. Singh said the Centre had so far provided Rs. 1,877 crores from the National Calamity Contingency Fund, another Rs. 1,362 crores as its share of the Calamity Relief Fund and 79 lakh tonnes of foodgrains valued at Rs. 7,917 crores to the nine drought-hit States.

But, the States have been asking for more support and the task force, which is scheduled to meet on June 30, is likely to consider them. "The Centre is keen to provide all assistance to the drought-hit States and no stones would be left unturned to provide succour to the affected people.''

The Minister announced that following a meeting he had with the Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, on Wednesday, directives were being issued to the banks to waive the interest for all farmers in the drought-affected areas, including those who had defaulted in the repayment of loans. He denied that the Centre was being partial in providing drought relief on political lines and emphasised that the relief measures were given strictly in consonance with the magnitude of the problems faced by each State.

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