Monday, April 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Drought scene alarming
Oppn calls for instant action, Gujarat steps up wheat supply

NEW DELHI, April 23 (PTI, UNI) — Opposition parties today asked the Centre to take immediate steps to meet the drought situation in different parts of the country, especially in Gujarat and Rajasthan, demanding immediate financial help to the affected states and formulation of a “disaster management policy”.

While the National Council of the CPI sought convening of an all-party meeting to review the situation, senior Congress leader Madhav Rao Scindia criticised the government for being “tardy” in providing relief.

In a statement, he said the rural people, who were already bearing the brunt of indebtedness, high costs of inputs like fertiliser and fall in the ground water level, “have been dealt a body blow by the drought”.

Demanding formulation of a coherent disaster management policy, he said “to make matters worse, the recent Union Budget has greatly slashed many provisions for rural areas and various rural employment programmes have been reduced by as much as 30 to 40 per cent.”

The CPI National Council, which is meeting here, said “famine-like” condition was prevailing in Rajasthan where 26 out of 32 districts were badly affected, while the Kutch-Saurashtra region of Gujarat was severely hit.

Calling for supply of drinking water on a war-footing, the CPI demanded starting of “food-for-work” programme in all districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, besides releasing more wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene.

The party also demanded that Centre finance all water resource management projects in these areas and their speedy completion to avoid water problems in future.

Meanwhile, according to a report from Gandhinagar, the Gujarat Government today stepped up foodgrain distribution in the drought-hit areas even as the Centre announced additional quota to the state. A high-level committee chaired by the Chief Minister, Mr Keshubhai Patel, held a meeting here to review the steps taken to meet the situation.

The meeting welcomed the Central Government’s decision to supply additional quota of foodgrain with free transportation through the special trains to the drought-affected people.

Mr Patel has ordered the officials to see the appropriate distribution of the foodgrain being received from the Centre.

He also ordered release of 20 kg of wheat at Rs 540 to all families living in drought-affected areas. Each labourer working at various relief works should also be given 2 kg of wheat at the same price. Mr Patel also instructed officials that no village was left out of water supply due to technical reasons.

The Gujarat Government has submitted a master plan of Rs 311 crore to the two-member central team comprising Mr Bharatlal, Deputy Secretary in the Rural Development Ministry and Mr P. K. Chakravarty, additional Adviser to the department of drinking water supply in the Rural Development Ministry who visited the affected areas on Friday and Saturday.

The team is to submit its report to the Union Ministry of Rural Development on Monday.

The minister added that the Centre would release 20 kg of additional good grains per month per family at prices applicable to those below the poverty line.

Heavy rainfall

AMBAJI (Gujarat), April 23 (UNI) — Heavy rainfall at Ambaji in Bankaskantha district of north Gujarat last night brought back hope to the millions affected by the drought in these areas.

The unexpected downpour was welcomed with people offering prayers in the temples.Back


PM appeals for relief
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, April 23 — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today appealed to the people to contribute whole-heartedly to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to help more than five crore drought-hit people of Gujarat, Rajasthan and some other parts of the country to tide over the natural calamity.

“Large areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan, and some other parts of the country, are in the grip of a severe drought. Crops have withered away, water resources have dried up, there is no fodder for cattle. In village after village, hunger stalks men, women and children,” Mr Vajpayee said in an address to the nation over television and radio.

He said the Centre has been releasing funds from the national fund for calamity relief and other schemes.

“However, given the severity of the drought and the large number of people and cattle who need to be provided with food and fodder, these funds are inadequate.”

“You can help meet the shortage by contributing money, no matter how small the amount, to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund,” Mr Vajpayee said.

He said more than five crore people had been affected by the drought.

“They can only stare at the parched earth and hope that this year the monsoon will not elude them. But the rains are still months away,” he added.


Crops wither, lakes dry up

NEW DELHI, April 23 (PTI) — Vast tracts of withered crop and dried up lakes and reservoirs today continued to stalk large parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan gripped by unprecedented drought as the two states sent out virtual SOS to the Centre for urgent assistance to help cope with the calamity.

People and cattle in village after village in the two states went without food, fodder and water, admitted Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Union Minister of Textile Kashi Ram Rana after a tour of drought-affected areas.

Rajasthan today complained of “inadequate” central aid to cope with drought affecting 2.5 crore of people in large parts of the state and asked the Centre to urgently release at least 200,000 tonnes of food for drought-hit areas.

Mr Adarsh Kishore Saxena, Principal Secretary to Mr Gehlot, said there was no major migration of either population or cattle due to the drought but said aid from the Centre to Rajasthan to tackle the situation was inadequate and probably one-fifths of our requirement in 23,047 villages covering 2.5 crore people spread over the 26 districts.

Relief operations were tardy in Ajmer district where only 21 out of the 124 hand pumps had been drilled so far. Out of the 237 fodder depots sanctioned, only 67 were now functional, official sources said.

Villages in Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat did not have potable drinking water as most wells had dried up and there was an acute shortage of fodder also.

For the people of Barmer, Rajasthan district bordering Pakistan, the drought is “trikal” as failed monsoon for the third year in succession has triggered an unprecedented crisis of water and food.

A permanent home of food and water shortage, Barmer’s woes was compounded by the fact that only 156 out of the 989 projects to provide jobs to drought-affected people had been completed.

Mr Saxena said there has so far been no major migration of people and cattle from drought-hit areas of Rajasthan.

In Gujarat, water crisis did not show any sign of ending as all dams have gone dry and only 2.43 per cent of water had been stored at a low surface of the reservoirs.

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