Tuesday, April 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

All-party meeting on drought today
MPs call for relief measures

NEW DELHI, April 24 (PTI) — The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee has convened an all-party meeting tomorrow to discuss the drought situation in parts of the country, the BJP spokesman, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, said today.

Mr Naidu told newsmen here that political parties should not politicise the issue but work together to help those who have been affected by the severe drought in Rajasthan, Gujarat, parts of Orissa and several other states.

“We appeal to all political parties to join in this endeavour and not politicise it, otherwise it would divert the nation’s attention from the problem confronting the people,” he said.

“We urge the Centre and state governments to have a coordinated effort in tackling this problem and prepare a joint action plan giving top priority to drinking water, specially in its transportation and procurement and distribution of fodder for cattle,” the spokesman said.

He said there was need to give priority to the food-for-work scheme so that agriculture labour and the poor people could get employment.

Mr Naidu appreciated that the Centre had decided to give additional foodgrains to states to tide over the crisis.

The Centre today released an additional two lakh tonnes of foodgrains comprising wheat and rice for the drought-affected areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The special release of foodgrains is for distributing 20 kg of additional foodgrains under the public distribution system (PDS) to families both below and above the poverty line, an official statement said here.

The foodgrains, to be supplied at the rate of Rs 2 per kg per person at the below poverty line (BPL), would be given under the food-for-work programme to both states.

The Department of Public Distribution had already allocated 15,000 tonnes of foodgrains under the food-for-work programme to Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The Centre has further allocated 20,000 tonnes of foodgrains for running community kitchens through non-government organisations and panchayats in both the states.

In the Lok Sabha today, MPs expressed concern over the drought situation in several states and called for urgent measures to tackle the drinking water shortage and fodder for cattle as also launching of massive relief works on a war footing to mitigate the rigours of one of the worst natural calamities in recent times.

Participating in a special discussion on the drought situation, they said the Centre should do its utmost to provide financial assistance to the affected states so that several programmes, including food for work, could be started in a big way.

Mr Sisram Ola (Cong) assailed the Centre for its “meagre” assistance to Rajasthan, whose 26 out of the 32 districts have been severely hit by drought. He said in spite of a demand by the state government for a financial assistance to the tune of Rs 1,145 crore, the Centre had granted a mere Rs 103 crore.

Initiating the discussion, Mr Rasa Singh Rawat (BJP) hailed the Prime Minister for his appeal to the nation on television and radio calling for liberal help to the drought-hit people.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Secretary, Mr Prabhat Kumar, today reviewed at a high-level meeting the steps taken to provide relief to the drought-affected areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The meeting was attended, among others, by senior officials of Ministries of Agriculture, Rural Development, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Railways, Water Resources and Defence, besides the Department of Meteorology.

According to a report from Thiruvanathapuram, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 17.34 crore as grant-in-aid to Kerala to tide over the drought situation in the state for the current fiscal year.

20 million hit in Gujarat

GANDHINAGAR: More than 20 million persons in 9,421 villages, four cities and 79 towns have been affected by the drought in Gujarat.

According to a report submitted to the Centre by the Chief Minister, Mr Keshubhai Patel, most of the dams in Kachchh, Saurashtra and North Gujarat region have dried up. Ten million heads of cattle have also been affected. The detailed report on the drought situation was sent to the Rural Development Minister, Mr Sunderlal Patwa.



Advani to visit Gujarat

AMHEDABAD, April 24 (UNI) — Union Home Minister L.K. Advani will pay a day-long visit to the drought-affected areas of north Gujarat and Saurashtra on April 30.State unit BJP general secretary Govardhan Zadapiya said on Friday that Mr Advani would visit several worst-affected areas of the two regions of Gujarat during his visit.


26 Rajasthan dists drought-hit
From Milap Chand Dandia

JAIPUR, April 24 — Failure of monsoon last year has created a difficult situation for Rajasthan. Food, fodder and water have become scarce in most parts of the state making people’s lives miserable.

The state government has declared drought in 26 out of the 32 districts in the state. According to official estimates the scarcity of food, fodder and water is having an adverse effect on at least 2.5 crore human beings and 3 to 5 crore animals. The situation is especially difficult in 17 districts.

More than men, the situation is horrifying for animals. Because of scanty rain, most of the ponds have dried up and there is no alternative source for the cattle to quench their thirst. Erratic and scanty monsoon has caused shortage of fodder too.

Fodder prices, though it may sound a little unbelievable, have recently shown a downward trend but fodder is still out of the reach of poor farmers who have lost their purchasing power on account of crop failure. Sitaram of Dhani daar near Saligrampure village of Chaksu tehsil near Jaipur says the prices of fodder after touching a high level of Rs 125 to Rs 130 per maund last month have now come down to Rs 80 per maund but it is still too costly for him and other villagers. “We have no money to purchase enough fodder for the 25 head of cattle belonging to two brothers. Relief work by the government would have helped in mitigating our suffering, but so far the government has shown no concern for us”.

A sudden fall in fodder prices is attributed to the fact that harvesting is just over in the adjoining Haroti region comprising of Kota, Bundi, Baran and the Jhalawar area, which were fortunate to have sufficient rainfall to sustain their crops.

When this fact was brought to the notice of Dr Adarsh Kishore, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, he said this did not mean that there was no problem of fodder. “In fact some districts were fortunate to have sufficient rainfall. There were many districts in which some parts experienced good monsoon while others were not that fortunate. Thus there are pockets of plenty coexisting with areas of poverty”.

But the fact remains that even after the fall in fodder prices most of the farmers are not in position to purchase it. The prices are still at least 25 per cent higher than the previous year. Moreover, last year, the farmer had enough money to buy fodder. This year he has no money. The hope of government providing some relief has also proved false.

“In fact, the state government initially took more interest in maligning the Union Government than actually caring for the drought-hit,” says former CM and presently leader of the Opposition Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. It made inflated demands to show that Rajasthan’s plight was being ignored by the Centre which was not realising funds at the state was ruled by the Congress.

The state government had come under severe criticism not only from the Opposition, but also from the ruling party for not rising to the occasion at an appropriate time. so much so that even the PCC chief, Ms Girija Vyas, publicly expressed her concern over the government’s mishandling of the problem of fodder and not starting relief work.

How serious the government has been about relief operations, can be measured from the fact that people in the constituency of the Relief Minister Gulab Singh Shektawat had blocked roads to express their anger against the government’s failure to make arrangements for supplying drinking water.

Nine districts have been identified as having a more acute problem of drinking water. These are: Ajmer, Nagaur, Raj Samand, Churu, Barmer, Jaisalmer, Sirohi, Udaipur and a part of Pali.

PTI adds: Stung by hunger, several head of cattle have perished in the deserts while people have left their home and hearth in three districts of Rajasthan looking for food and water even as the Centre dispatched additional foodgrain for drought-affected areas in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

People have begun moving out of several areas of Barmer, Sirohi and Jalore districts of Rajasthan, worst-hit by drought, leaving their cattle to fend for themselves, and Telengana and Rayalseema regions of Andhra Pradesh.

Reports from different parts of Rajasthan said several head of cattle have died in the state due to shortage of fodder.

At least 200 sheep, going hungry for days together, died and many were taken ill after consuming poisonous grass in Jaisalmer district, reports received at Jaipur said.

The sheep had migrated to Jaisalmer from Barmer district, one of the worst-hit by drought, in search of pastures.

Complaints have poured in from across Rajasthan about labourers engaged in relief work not getting wages, prompting Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to order payment of wages by the month-end. 

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