To fight one of the India’s worst droughts, the Union government on Monday decided a slew of measures including additional allocation of funds under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to provide employment for 200 days — instead of 100 — and direct relief to farmers from the National Calamity Fund (NCF).
The government has already provided Rs 39,100 crore (Rs 391 billion) for the world’s biggest social security scheme in the 2009-10 Budget.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) seems have decided that the guidelines for NCF and National Calamity Contingency Fund would be revised to allow the government to pay the additional agriculture input costs to farmers. It includes subsidy for diesel and electricity consumed for pumping underground water and alternative less water intensive crops.
“The funds from NCF would be released once the state government submits its proposals,” a government statement said.
The government has declared 272 of 616 districts as drought-hit, with India receiving 24 per cent less than average rainfall. If the trend continues, this can be the country’s worst drought in Independent India.
Maximum deficiency of 19 per cent for entire monsoon (June to September end) had been recorded in three years — 2002, 1987, 1979.
No wonder the CCEA has reportedly decided that the government will pay for digging up four lakh new borewells at a cost of Rs 600 crore (Rs 6 billion).
The farmers will get money from NCF for re-digging their existing borewells. About 300 MPs of the drought-hit districts have been asked to provide money from MP Local Area Fund (MPLAD) for water harvesting and re-digging of tubewells, the statement said. Each MP gets Rs two crore (Rs 20 million) every year under the MPLAD scheme.
State governments have been asked to utilise Rs 2,450 crore provided under Integrated Watershed Development Programme — a scheme for rainwater harvesting systems — in drought-hit areas.
The rural development ministry will get additional money to provide adequate drinking water facilities in rural India. Water in nine of the 12 major reservoirs of India is 33 per cent less than that of last year, creating a drinking water scare, the cabinet committee was told.
Another measure being taken up is utilising the Railways to transport water and fodder to distress areas. The Railways is already supplying drinking water and fodder to drought-hit areas of Rajasthan.
The committee also decided that the inter-ministerial group of drought would meet every week and state governments would be asked to prepare an action plan.