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Drought-hit states fail to lift grain

NEW DELHI, MAY 24: After all the brouhaha over inadequate Central relief, the three drought-affected states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh seem to be strangely indifferent to the huge foodgrain stocks allocated to them by the Centre. But when it comes to cash, they are making a dash for it.

Exactly a month after the Centre hurriedly made huge allocations of foodgrains for the three states on April 25, Gujarat has lifted just 12 per cent of wheat and nine per cent of rice out of its allocated amount for three months while Rajasthan has lifted 21 per cent of wheat and two per cent of rice allocated to it.

And Andhra Pradesh, whose Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu had gone to the PM with knitted brows, complaining that the Centre was not providing any foodgrains for the drought-affected areas in his state, had not drawn a grain from its extra allocations till May 22! The state was allocated four lakh tonnes of rice for a period of three months on May 1, as a special drought relief measure.

This is the assessment made in an official note prepared by the Ministry for Agriculture, which is the nodal agency for monitoring the drought situation to keep the Prime Minister's Office informed about the measures taken.

The foodgrains had been allocated from the public distribution system at concessional rates usually reserved for people below the poverty line.

Against 1.9 lakh tonnes and 1.3 lakh tonnes of wheat and rice allocated to Gujarat, the state has picked up only 23,500 tonnes of wheat (12.26 per cent) and 12,000 tonnes of rice (9.2 per cent). ``Going by the fact that the allocations have been made for three months for the drought-affected states, at least one-third of the stocks should have been lifted by the end of the first month. Since this has not happened, these allocations for a month will lapse and the poor people in these states will not benefit from them,'' says a senior Food Ministry official.

Same is the case with Rajasthan -- 3.4 lakh tonnes of wheat and 17,573 thousand tonnes of rice were allocated additionally for drought relief, but only 69,327 tonnes of wheat (20.8 per cent) and 314 tonnes of rice (1.8 per cent) have been lifted so far.

But the states have picked up with much alacrity whatever cash was readily available under various schemes of the Centre. For example, Rs 320.21 crore has been released for Gujarat under the Calamity Relief Fund and for various other schemes by the Department of Rural Development, Department of Drinking Water Supply and Department of Agriculture and Cooperation. The corresponding figure for Rajasthan is Rs 336.30 crore and for Andhra Pradesh Rs 251.07 crore.

Incidentally, the amounts released under the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) seem to be subject to political manipulations. For example, Gujarat has already got three quarterly instalments of its CRF allocated for each state for the entire year provided by the Centre for such exigencies, in advance. However, Rajasthan and Andhra have to be satisfied with just two quarterly instalments each from this Fund.

An interesting twist to the drought emerges from the data collected from the meteorological department contained in the note, which seems to suggest that Andhra may not even have a drought! The Met Department data quoted by the note says the winter season rain between January and February 2000 was 201 per cent above normal in coastal Andhra Pradesh, 131 per cent above normal in the Telangana region and 122 per cent above normal in the Rayalseema region. The pre-monsoon rain between March and May 10 was only 11 to 13 per cent less than normal in these regions, not enough to declare the state ``drought-stricken''. Actually, the pre-monsoon rain has been classified as ``normal to excess'' by the Met Department for Andhra.

In the case of Gujarat, the note says the state has had an 86 per cent deficiency in rainfall in the pre-monsoon phase while the rain was 99 per cent below normal in winter between January and February. It describes this rainfall as ``scanty'', adding that Saurashtra, Kutch and Diu have had ``no rain'' at all in the pre-monsoon phase while the rain was 99 per cent below normal in winter.

For Rajasthan the report says west Rajasthan had a pre-monsoon rain of 45 per cent below normal and was classified as ``deficient'' while east Rajasthan which had 10 per cent above normal rain in the pre-monsoon phase was described as ``normal''. It was 77 per cent below normal in winter.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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