|Wednesday, April 26, 2000,
PM assures adequate funds
NEW DELHI, April 25The Centre today released more than eight lakh tonnes of foodgrains for drought-hit Rajasthan and Gujarat and declared that paucity of funds would not be allowed to hamper relief work in the affected states.
This was stated at an all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee here this evening.
Representatives of various political parties also agreed at the meeting that the drought should be treated akin to a national calamity and they would rise above political lines to fight it.
The parties also felt that even after 50 years of Independence, it took a natural disaster to move the authorities into action and there was a need for a long-term action plan to deal with such situations. It was decided that a long-term action plan would be evolved, especially with regard to making drinking water available to people. Another suggestion, about which there was complete agreement, was that the Health Ministry should be involved in the relief work as the drought often brought with it several diseases and health problems.
Former Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Karnataka, Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr S.R. Bommai, respectively, were also invited for the meeting and the leaders drew heavily from their experience of controlling such situations in the past, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said after the meeting.
Mr Pawar suggested that Maharashtra had a good sugar cane crop this year and this could be supplied to Gujarat and Rajasthan for use as fodder for cattle.
Several leaders also expressed apprehension about the problems students of schools and colleges would face in these drought-hit areas and they said that they might not be in a position to pay their fees.
A suggestion by several leaders to set up a task force at national level was, however, not agreed to by the Prime Minister as he felt that an existing committee under the Cabinet Secretary was already doing this job satisfactorily.
The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, Mr Shanta Kumar, informed the meeting that he had unilaterally arranged for release of one lakh tonnes of foodgrains for Gujarat and Rajasthan. However, subsequently these two States had made known their demand and accordingly more than eight lakh tonnes of foodgrains were being released. Rajasthan would get 22,573 tonnes of rice and 503,889 tonnes of wheat to be sold at 50 per cent of economic cost or at BPL (below poverty level) rates while Gujarat would get 137,682 tonnes of rice and 2,21,523 tonnes of wheat. The Centre would incur a subsidy bill of Rs 421 crore on this account, Mr Mahajan said.
More than 40 leaders of various political parties participated in the meeting and representatives of 21 political parties spoke, the minister said.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, referred to the poor treatment meted out to Orissa when it was struck by super cyclone last year while CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee felt that the government should have made a suo motu statement in Parliament instead of waiting for a discussion on the drought situation.
The Prime Minister told newspersons after the meeting that we (all the political parties) have decided to sink our differences for at least the next two months and fight the drought. The Prime Minister also told the meeting that there were not enough funds in the Prime Ministers Relief Fund and as and when it swelled it would be distributed to the drought-hit states. As of now Mr Vajpayee said Rajasthan would be given Rs 20 crore from the PMs relief fund while Gujarat would get Rs 10 crore.
954 cr relief announced
NEW DELHI, April 25 (PTI) The Centre today said it had released Rs 954.43 crore as assistance to Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to tide over the severe drought even as Railways announced free transportation of fodder and water to Gujarat and Rajasthan.
"The Centre is constantly monitoring the situation and coordinating efforts to mitigate the hardships being faced by the people due to the drought," an official release said.
The Agriculture Ministry has requested the Chief Ministers of Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh to help Gujarat and Rajasthan in arranging supply of fodder on a priority basis.
Giving a break-up of the assistance to the four states, the release says while Gujarat has been given Rs 208.47 crore under the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) and Rs 54.58 crore under the National Fund for Calamity Relief (NFCR), the share of Rajasthan under the CRF is Rs 267.37 crore and Rs 102.93 crore under the NFCR.
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