All-party team to Centre by month-end

All-party team to Centre by month-end

Drought losses pegged at Rs 4,500 cr; CM says no waiver of farm loans

The State government will lead an all-party delegation to the Centre seeking grants for drought relief works under the National Calamity Contingency Fund (NCCF) in the last week of April.

hand in hand: KPCC president G Parameshwara, BJP State president K S Eshwarappa and JD(S) State president H D Kumara­swamy greet each other at the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore on Thursday. dh Photo

A decision to this effect was taken at the all-party meeting chaired by Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda, to discuss strategies to tackle the drought situation, here on Thursday.

The State government has revised the losses due to drought from Rs 2,605 crore to Rs 4,500 crore and wants the Centre to bear at least half the burden of losses by releasing grants to the State under NCCF.

Given the fact that the government is seeking grants under NCCF, it is obvious that it wants the Centre to declare the drought in the State a “national calamity”.

According to Central government guidelines, relief assistance under the NCCF can be sought only when there is a natural calamity of severe nature, requiring expenditure by the State government in excess of the balance available in its own Calamity Relief Fund.

The State government came under criticism by the Opposition leaders, who attacked the ruling BJP for failing to take steps to mitigate the sufferings of the people. Briefing reporters after the five-and-half-hour meeting, Sadananda Gowda said the magnitude of the prevailing drought was as severe as the droughts that hit the State in 1972-73 and 1983-85.

Gowda evades reply

However, the chief minister stopped short of making any major announcements that could mitigate the sufferings of the people in general and farmers in particular. Asked whether the government was considering waiver of interest on crop loans, Gowda evaded a direct reply stating that he would place the proposal before the Centre.

However, while interacting with the media before the meeting, he had said that it would be difficult to waive of crop loans. It is estimated that the government has to bear a burden of Rs 19,350 crore if it decides to waive of agriculture loans of the 2011-12 fiscal.

While nationalised banks have lent about Rs 10,000 crore, cooperative banks and regional rural banks have lent about Rs 9,000 crore for agriculture. The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department was taking up drinking water supply to 4,100 habitations in 26 districts under the Multi-Village Water Supply Scheme, he said.

Gowda said the Met department had forecast good rainfall in the next few days and the government had adequate fertilisers and quality seeds to meet the requirements of farmers.

No power cut

A Cabinet sub-committee headed by the chief minister directed the energy department not to disconnect power supply in rural areas for drinking water projects, in view of the drought. In addition, he has directed the department to immediately provide electricity to new borewells in the drought-hit areas.

Other decisions at the meeting

* No foreign trips for ministers, MLAs and officials for the next two months

* No unnecessary expenditure on big events, Rs four crore released for market intervention for purchase of turmeric at Rs 5,000 per quintal

* To petition Centre for exte­n­­­ding minimum support price for tur dal, potato and pomegranate 

* To petition Centre to provide a share to the State under its special package of
Rs 1,000 crore for sericulture

* Centre should pass bill to amend Article 371 D of the Constitution to provide special status to Hyderabad-Karnataka region


* Write off interest on crop loans

* Subsidise fertilisers

* Appoint nodal officers to ensure crop insurance
reaches farmers

* Adequate storage of coal for thermal power plants in coming months

* Address drinking water scarcity in drought-hit taluks

* Restore social security benefits keeping drought in view

What they say...

“The government has failed to tackle drought situation. Farmers are stuck in debt traps due to crop failure. But the government is not ready to waive of crop loans. The chief minister did not give any assurance in this regard.”

Opposition leader

“Drought relief works are not being done properly. The government should be reaching out to the affected. I have advised the government to set up a separate agency to deal with drought.”

M P Nadagouda
JD(U) leader

“Drought has hit the farmers hard. The government must waive of crop loans in their interest. If it fails to take a decision to waive of crop loans in a few days, we will launch an agitation.”

Kodihalli Chandrashekar
Farmers’ leader

“The Centre should announce a special package of Rs 1,000 crore to the State to take up drought relief works. The total estimated loss in the agriculture sector is Rs 19,000 crore. But the Centre has released only Rs 70 crore.”

H D Revanna
JD(S) leader

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