Vasundhara for revision of wages' norms

JAIPUR, DEC. 6 . The Rajasthan Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, has demanded an immediate revision in the norms prescribed under the Calamities Relief Fund (CRF) for payment of wages to labourers employed in the drought relief works, while terming them "inadequate and impractical" in view of massive employment provided in the State.

Ms. Raje said, while discussing the issue with the members of a Central team visiting the State to study the drought situation here on Sunday, that both the cash component of Rs. 15 per day as the wages and foodgrain weighing 5 kg were insufficient and said they should be revised to Rs. 18 in cash, taking it to one-fourth of the daily wage, and 12 kg.of foodgrain.

The State should be allocated wheat in sufficient quantity to enable it to provide at least 10 kg. each to those engaged for relief works, as was done during the last drought, said the Chief Minister.

She said the State Government had launched relief works in over 18,000 villages in 25 districts and fixed the labour ceiling of 3 lakhs for December.

The nine-member Central team, headed by the Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Agriculture, K.D. Sinha, reached the State Capital on Sunday after visiting the drought-affected areas in Churu, Bikaner, Nagaur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Barmer districts for three days in two separate groups.

Referring to the difficult situation created by drought, Ms. Raje urged the Central team to recommend an immediate allocation of 28-lakh metric tonnes of foodgrain by the Centre to the State to facilitate speedy implementation of relief works. She said the Union Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, had already agreed to release this quantity of wheat.

"A generous assistance by the Centre, especially in the material component, is needed for building permanent assets through the drought relief works," Ms. Raje said. She said the delay in monsoon had caused an extensive damage to crops in western Rajasthan this year and the drinking water was being supplied to villages by tankers. Special camps for providing fodder to cattle would also be opened in the region.

The State Government had recently submitted a memorandum to the Centre seeking an assistance of Rs. 2,378 crores for drought relief. The State Relief Minister, Kirorilal Meena, said Rs.. 91 crores were proposed to be given to farmers as input subsidy, while Rs.1,576 crores would be spent on providing employment to drought-affected people.

The members of the Central team stated that the report on the drought situation and the State Government's suggestions and demands would be submitted to the Central Government shortly. Among others, the Chief Secretary, R.K. Nair, Principal Secretary, Relief, A.K. Pandey, Relief Secretary, R.K. Meena, and senior officials of Irrigation and Public Health Engineering Departments attended the meeting.

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