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Economy

Centre slept as lands turned waste
Radhika Singh
NEW DELHI 26 APRIL
THE government has absolutely no defence to offer for shirking responsibility for the so-called `natural calamity' that has resulted in severe drought in several states in India. If anything, it is guilty of not taking action to avert the crisis of impending drought or at least minimising the damage.
Rainfall data available with the government for the monsoon season ended September ’99, the post monsoon rain from October to December ’99 and winter rain in January-February ’00 amply pointed to deficient rainfall in the 11 states now reported to have drought conditions of ``varying magnitude''. Rajasthan has had drought conditions for the last three years, according to a government report. Not only that, the Economic Survey for ’99-00 states that only 90 per cent of the urban areas and 92.5 per cent rural areas have access to drinking water.
The government was supposed to make drinking water available throughout the country as per the minimum needs programme (MNP) within 5 years. With a Rs 2,100 crore budgetary allocation under the department of drinking water this financial, over the Rs 15,000 crore spent on the Rajiv Gandhi drinking water mission in the ’90s, a drought prone areas programme worth Rs 250 crore and Rs 450 crore for the water resources ministry, and more than Rs 500 crore under the rural water supply programme (released as recent as ’99-00) the government has little to show by way of progress.
The Planning Commission at the beginning of the Ninth Plan estimated an investment of Rs 75,800 crore would be required over the next 25 years to carry out watershed development of 63.4m hectare of rain fed land.
As of September 30, ’99, that is officially the end of the monsoon season, 134 of 424 districts across the country were reported to have had deficient rainfall. These districts came under seven of 33 meteorological sub-divisions which were recorded as rainfall deficient by the India Meteorological Department.
A detailed report was placed on record for the government. Of the 11 drought-hit states, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are the worst hit. The agriculture ministry has pegged foodgrain production in these states at 30 per cent less than the last year.
The dismal report card of these states reads: Gujarat; 38 per cent deficient rainfall, 9,421 villages affected, 250 lakh people affected, 71.3 lakh livestock population affected, oilseeds production to drop by 49.2 per cent, almond crop hit.
Rajasthan; 17-24 per cent deficient rainfall, 23,000 villages affected, 262 lakh people hit, 345 lakh cattle without fodder, oilseed production down 17 per cent and 78.2 lakh hectare under kharif crop affected. AP; 17,000 villages affected, production loss of 12 lakh tonne, maize, groundnut, sunflower, castor and sugarcane affected. MP; scanty rainfall which is 60 per cent less than normal, 3,240 villages affected, 26 lakh people hit, 34.2 lakh cattle and 9.5 lakh hectare affected.
Even as financial aid worth Rs 1,000 crore has been rushed to these states, the question of what was done with the funds available before goes abegging. And if severe weather conditions were noted by the IMD as far back as September ’99, why did the early warning system created last year not warn farmers to alter their cropping patterns to avert the disaster? Or to allow them to harvest rain water, store fodder for cattle and maybe grain and water for themselves?


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