Congress flays Modi government on relief to drought-hit states

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New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) The Congress on Wednesday lambasted the Modi government for allegedly not ensuring sufficient relief to the drought-affected states and said it is more interested in taking credit for whatever little it has done in the matter.

The opposition party also demanded that the government table a white paper in parliament in the next session on the drought situation and the steps taken by it to provide relief to the affected people.

“There is severe drought-like situation in many districts. On an average, 90 farmers committed suicide every week in 2016. The Modi government’s shamelessness is in full display when its agriculture minister tries to downplay the calamity’s effects, saying the media is exaggerating the situation,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters here.

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“In drought-hit Maharashtra alone, nine farmers commit suicide daily. As many as 3,228 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015, the highest since 2001. Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, with 5.7 million farmers, accounted for 83 percent of all farmer suicides in Maharashtra in 2015,” he said, asserting that India is facing the worst water crisis in a decade with 91 major reservoirs having no more than 29 percent water.

As many as 246 districts in 10 states were declared drought-affected in 2015-16, according to the Centre’s statement in the Lok Sabha on March 10.

The situation is bad in Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Odisha, Telangana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

“Even as the country faces the worst drought since 1986-87, the Modi government has reduced funds for rural water supply from Rs.9,700 crore in 2013-14 to Rs.5,000 crore in 2016-17,” Singhvi said.

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The Congress leader said that instead of providing relief and succour to the people, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government was busy taking credit for the water sent to Latur by putting banners on the train.

The Congress leader said: “Although two water trains have been sent to the parched Latur city, the quantity is far less than required. Latur needs 100 times more water than what the trains took there.”

“Instead of announcing concrete measures to deal with the water crisis, central ministers are busy playing down the situation,” he said adding that the summer months have begun but the Centre has refrained from taking meaningful steps to redress the situation.

The Congress leader said the Supreme Court too had rapped the government for the delay in releasing funds for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme to drought-hit states. The apex court had also questioned the government’s role in declaring drought in states.

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“The apex court has categorically asked the government as to why it is not declaring drought as a national calamity and why it could not be brought under the Disaster Management Act of 2005 to release funds for the affected families,” Singhvi said.

The Congress welcomed the meteorological department prediction of more than normal monsoon this year.

“We are hopeful it may bring some long-term cheers to Indian farmers who have seen absolutely no respite or assistance from the government of the day,” Singhvi said.

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