Gujarat seeks Rs.14,673-crore Central assistance to tackle severe drought in the state

“Centre should overhaul the drought relief packages criteria, with more discretionary amounts to affected states”

“Gujarat to present its detailed memorandum before the Central team to consider the requirements on August 7-8, 2012” – Narendra Modi

Gandhinagar, Friday: Gujarat Government today sought Central assistance of Rs.14,673-crore as per preliminary estimate immediately needed for agriculture, drinking water, irrigation, fodder, employment and other relief measures to tackle the specter of impending severe drought looming large over the state.

Presenting a memorandum to the Central team led by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar here today, Chief Minister Narendra Modi said the rainfall deficit in the Saurashtra & Kutch region amounted to 79 per cent of the last ten years’ average and 58 per cent in north Gujarat.

Mr. Pawar is accompanied by Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and secretaries of the departments concerned at the Centre. Gujarat Government was represented by Finance Minister Vajubhai Vala, Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel, Water Resource Minister Nitin Patel, Agriculture Minister Dilip Sanghani and Minister of State for Energy Saurabh Patel, Chief Secretary A. K.Joti, Water Resources Adviser B.N. Navlawala and Secretaries.

Presenting a forceful pitch for the Central assistance, Mr. Modi suggested massive overhaul in the Central policy for providing drought relief packages. Since the adverse effects of truant monsoon last longer, he said the Centre should leave 30 per cent of SRDF amount to the discretion of respective state to spend. The present criterion of Rs.3,000 per hectare assistance in rain-fed areas for drinking water, cattle camp, fodder, transportation, seeds, cash doles, etc is too inadequate.

He further pointed out that the Central announcements for immediate drought relief packages from regular budgeted accounts are also inadequate and advance installments too slow. The Centre could make provision for contingency expenditure in the budget itself and disburse the necessary amount without delay.

Referring to steps already taken by Gujarat Government, Mr. Modi said that a three-pronged monsoon contingency plan has already been put in place for all the 26 districts in the state, to provide one-lakh new electricity connections for agricultural purposes at a cost of Rs.1,500-crore, complete all missing links in Narmada canal-based pipeline projects to supply drinking water in drought-prone areas, and growing grass as fodder to meet the demand for next three months.

Mr. Modi said that a progressive state like Gujarat should be provided higher allocation for effective management of funds, which would eventually help the entire nation.

Mr. Modi said that the state agencies should be allowed to directly import edible oil. He urged the Central team to ensure the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) dam’s height be raised to help store more water and produce more electricity. He said that Gujarat is one of the very few power surplus states and the Centre should help it provide gas at cheaper rates so that Gujarat can provide up to 2000 MW power to deficit states. The Centre should also help Gujarat increase its milk production to feed the nation.

Responding to the Gujarat Government’s presentation, Mr. Pawar said that the memorandum be submitted to the Centre, and as per the mandate this Central Committee will meet on August 7 and 8, 2012 to take appropriate decisions on short-term and long-term provisions from time-to-time.

Mr. Ramesh assured to immediately release Rs.425-crore dorrural drinking water supply. He said that 100 days doles provided under NREGA is per family and not per individual. However, he said, the Centre is considering extending increase the duration to 150 days in a year.

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