Drought has affected one-fourth of country: Govt

Drought has affected one-fourth of country: Govt

 Drought has affected nearly a quarter of the country's population and has left an impact on over 1.5 lakh villages, the government said in the Lok Sabha today as it sought "national consensus" on the contentious issues like the inter-linking of rivers.

The House saw a discussion on the drought, water-scarcity and inter-linking of rivers, with members voicing concern over the worsening situation and demanding waiver of loans of farmers. The members also emphasised the need for working on war-footing to ensure that people do not suffer for want of drinking water.

Replying to the debate amid din and repeated disruptions by Congress members, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said 313 districts, 1,58,205 villages and 4,44,280 dwellings in the country have been hit by drought.

In an attempt to dispel the notion that the government was doing nothing to deal with drought, he said Rs 1360 crore had been allocated to states like Andhra pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka well before the drought.

"There is no lack of funds. On vote of account we have already given Rs 564 to drought-affected states. As per the sharing pattern, the state has to contribute 50 per cent to the share. We have sent Rs 1900 crore mto the states.

"This means the states have Rs 3800 crore to deal with the situation. Of this, 10 per cent could be used for anything which relates to combating of drought and 15 per cent is for operation and maintainance," the minister said.

Listing out the steps undertaken to deal with drought, Singh said over 9.33 lakh hand pumps have either been restored or repaired, 14,80,000 riser pipes were either replaced or extended, and 27,728 new borewells were commissioned.

The minister said the government has also increased funding under the MNREGS. He said the people had lost faith in the scheme due to the UPA regime, but the NDA-government has "restored" it.

"We have increased the MNREGA funds from 37,000 crore to Rs 45,000 crore," he said, adding that the mandays have been increased to 252 days by the NDA dispensation.

He also emphasisised on having a national consensus to deal with the issue of drought. "There needs to be a national consensus to deal with the problem of drought....on inter-linking of rivers," he said.

The House saw verbal duels between the Congress members and the Minister. Singh, who was in Congress before the last Lok Sabha polls, hit out at his erstwhile party colleagues, saying he knows everything about the party and should not be compelled to "open my mouth".

While the minister was giving details about the work done by the government to provide drinking water, the Congress members, who were already in the Well, created a furore over.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already met the Chief Ministers of drought-hit Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh and in coming days, Chief Ministers of more states will interact with the him on the issue.

Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, said that 35 speakers were still left to speak on the drought and the minister was already giving his reply. His party colleagues resorted to sloganeering.

Hitting out at Congress, the minister said those who are standing and sloganeering did not care for farmers.

"If you want to stage a dharna, then you can do it outside, near the Mahatma Gandhi's statue, in 45 degree Celsius temperature. But they want to protest here so that they do not sweat and also disrupt the House," Singh said.

Asking Congress members to shut up, he said as a minister, responding to questions is his right.

To counter their Congress members who were pressing for Privilege Motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Birender Singh threatened to take such an action against them.

"Stopping me to respond is a matter of privilege. I will bring Privilege Motion against them," the minister said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said it had been decided in the Business Advisory Committee that three ministers will respond to the debate.

"But the Congress is not worried about the farmers. They do not want any discussion. This is contempt of farmers," he said.

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