It’s a measure of how bad the drought currently affecting India is: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a meeting of chief secretaries of states that the country is facing a “difficult situation” and set a target — that “in no case should we allow citizens to go hungry”.
The possibility of more Indians going hungry is real enough, with 141 of the country’s 626 districts hit by drought. There has been an overall deficit of 25 per cent in rainfall this monsoon. With about 60 per cent of the country’s population dependent on agriculture for a living, things look grim.
Food prices have also been rising, and the prime minister has warned that reduced food production in the kharif (summer and monsoon) season crop is likely to have a “further inflationary impact on prices of food items”.
“The contingency plan for crops, drinking water, human and animal health, fodder, etc should be brought into operation without delay and a close watch kept on availability of foodgrains and prices of essential commodities,” Singh told the meeting.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party announced on Saturday that it would launch a nation-wide agitation against price rise on August 17, the day the prime minister meets state chief ministers to discuss the issue.