Thursday, April 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Allow 600 cr as relief: Gujarat

NEW DELHI, April 26 (PTI, UNI) — Facing the century’s worst drought, Gujarat today demanded that the Centre treat the nearly Rs 600 crore expenditure on tackling acute water crisis in the affected areas as permissible under calamity relief.

“At least half of the estimated Rs 1300 crore relief expenditure being made by the state is for providing drinking water in scarcity areas, but no Central assistance is available for the purpose,” the state Home Minister, Mr Haren Pandya, told newsmen here today.

He said two crore people and one crore head of cattle had been affected by the scarcity conditions which prevailed in 9421 villages in 17 districts as also 79 cities and four metropolitan cities. Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat regions in the state were facing acute water crisis, he said.

Mr Pandya said the current drought was more severe than the ones the state experienced in 1973 adn 1985-87. However, the advance preparations by the state government immediately after the rains’ failure in September helped to mitigate the sufferings to both people and animals.

The state government has made emergency water supply arrangements for all the urban areas in the Saurashtra region. This includes cities like Rajkot, Surendranagar, Jamnagar, Jetpur, Gondal, Dhoraji and Khambalia.

Mr Pandya said for the first time Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar faced water crisis as the sub soil water in Sabarmati river was not available due to limited quantity of water in Dharoi dam up-stream. The state government diverted Mahi river water to Ahmedabad by laying a 32-km-long pipeline at a cost of Rs 110 crore. The entire work was completed in a record time of three months, thus easing the water crisis.

In the Rajya Sabha, the Agriculture Minister, Mr Sunder Lal Patwa, said today that the Centre was doing everything possible to help the states tackle the unprecedented drought.

Replying to a short duration discussion in the House, the Minister made it clear that there is no discrimination by the Centre in extending assistance to the affected states.

He denied that there has been large scale migration of people from the drought-hit areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

He said that he had requested some states to arrange supply of fodder for Rajasthan and Gujarat. He made a special mention of Punjab and Haryana in this connection.

The minister for Rural Development, Mr A. Raja, said in the House that three districts in Gujarat were facing acute drinking water shortage and there had been an agitation for water in the villages of Jamnagar district.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today announced supply of additional foodgrains at concessional rates for people living below the poverty line in the drought-affected areas of Andhra Pradesh.

The announcement by the Prime Minister follows an SOS from the state government and would put drought-hit regions of the state on a  par with those of Gujarat and Rajasthan, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has agreed to release 1500 metric tonnes of foodgrains for undertaking food-for-work schemes in Dungarpur, Sirohi, Rajsamand and Banswara districts in Rajasthan in response to the drought. This will be in addition to the regular WFP activities in Rajasthan.

The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) will contribute Rs 2 crore to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.

BARODA: Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has convened an all-party meeting to discuss the grim drought situation in the state.

Representatives of trade and business, voluntary organisations and non-government bodies have also been invited to attend the meeting to be held in Gandhinagar on Friday, an official spokesman said here today.

The Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB) on Wednesday assured 18 hours of electricity supply per day in the drought-affected Saurashtra and Kutch regions of the state to help villagers draw more water from their tubewells.

The board has targeted about 9521 villages in Saurashtra, north Gujarat and Kutch regions to accord greater power supply, GEB sources said.


Sonia to visit Rajasthan

JAIPUR, April 26 (UNI) — Congress chief Sonia Gandhi will on May 5 pay a day’s visit to the drought-hit areas in Rajasthan and meet the affected people.

Taking serious note of the prevailing severe famine in the state, the Congress President has decided to get the firsthand information about it, state party chief Girija Vyas said in a statement here today.

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