No change in drought-relief norms till 2015, says govt

No change in drought-relief norms till 2015, says govt

Opposition demand to enhance compensation turned down

Members in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday urged the government to amend norms to enhance   drought relief to affected areas but the Centre said existing norms apply till 2015.

File photo

Replying to a calling attention motion on the drought situation in Karnataka, Union Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat said the norms for providing Central relief to drought affected was fixed by the Norms Committee based on the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission. As the Commission’s  recommendations were valid up to 2015, the Centre could modify the norms for enhancing the compensation amount only after that.

Dismissing the allegation that the Centre was delaying relief to Karnataka, the Minister said that a second Central team will visit the State on May 13 and based on its report, the government will release funds. 

Even as the MPs debated drought relief, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded Central assistance for drought relief work in his state. However, the PM is said to have given him the cold shoulder and advised to improve the state’s fiscal discipline. 

Rawat said out of Rs 169 crore State Drought Relief Fund (SDRF), in which the Centre’s contribution is  75 per cent, Rs 126 crore has already been released to Karnataka. After the State submitted its first memorandum in December last, the Centre approved an amount of Rs 186 crore, of which Rs 70.23 crore was released and Rs 116.45 crore adjusted against the outstanding balance in the SDRF.

On the State’s latest demand for Rs 5,953 crore to take up relief works in 123 taluks, he said the Central team will assess the situation during its visit.

Raising the issue, the Opposition lashed out at the Centre for adopting a “callous and casual” approach towards drought-hit Karnataka and sought immediate release of funds to take up relief works.

Initiating the discussion, M Venkaiah Naidu (BJP) said, “Two thirds of the State was reeling under severe drought but the Centre was insensitive to their plight...” He demanded an immediate release of Rs 1,500 crore to the State.

Provide foodgrains

Sitaram Yechury (CPM) wanted foodgrains to be diverted to drought affected people instead of allowing the grains to rot in godowns. Agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan (nominated) suggested that the Centre prepare advance relief programmes anticipating the calamity based on the drought prone areas map prepared by the government.

Members cutting across party lines demanded that the Centre bail out Karnataka.
Though the Minister assured adequate relief aid to Karnataka, BJP members staged a walkout, dissatisfied with the answer.

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