Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Friday sought Rs 11,000 crore from the Centre for the drought-hit state, putting aside acrimony over a ‘water train’ sent by the BJP-led government to the parched Bundelkhand region.
Yadav met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi to highlight the gravity of the situation in the country’s most populous state where an estimated 10 crore people in 50 districts are in the grip of a severe drought sweeping through vast swathes of the country.
“The Centre and the state have to work together. Farmers have faced the onslaught of both hail storm and drought,” Yadav told reporters after an hour-long meeting with Modi.
On Friday, the Samajwadi Party government led by Yadav had spurned a train carrying water for worst-hit Bundelkhand, saying that region had enough water to face the situation.
Asked why his government rejected the Centre’s gesture, Yadav said there was water in Bundelkhand but his government needed means to carry it to villages. “Can a train carry water to villages?” he questioned.
The rejection is being seen as an extension of the political rivalry between the SP and the BJP which will face off in next year’s high-stakes assembly elections in the state.
Yadav was, however, full of praise for Modi on Saturday as he “appreciated” the Prime Minister’s gesture of meeting chief ministers of drought-hit states.
The chief minister said that the central funds were required to move tankers and re-charging hand-pumps and related works.
“The Bundelkhand region has suffered a drought for the second successive year and various steps to lessen hardships of farmers such as providing advance pension amounts to farmers have been taken by the state government,” he said.
Approximately 10,000 additional tankers are needed to supplement the drought relief works of the state government, Yadav added.
The Prime Minister is understood to have issued directions to provide immediate assistance to the state in accordance with a memorandum submitted by the state earlier this week.
The Centre has released Rs 934 crore to the state under the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) in addition to Rs 506 crore given as central share of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) this fiscal. An additional amount of Rs 266 crore has been released as first installment of SDRF for 2016-17, official sources said.
(With PTI inputs)