Govt not releasing sufficient funds to tackle drought: Opposition

Members in Rajya Sabha Wednesday expressed serious concern over the acute drinking water crisis and rising number of farmers' suicides in 11 drought-hit states including Maharashtra, with the Opposition accusing the government of not releasing adequate funds to these states.

Maintaining that drinking water problem has been severe this time, the members asked the government to complete 312 pending irrigation projects across the country in a timely manner to boost water supply for drinking purposes and agriculture.

Read more from our special coverage on "DROUGHT"

They also asked the government to consider if more funds could be released to drought-hit states, saying the current allocation rate was less than half of what the states had demanded for 2015-16 to tide over the situation.

"Right now, 11 states are facing drought-like conditions. Whether in states or at the Centre, where there are different political parties, we must face the situation. We must rise above political lines and face the situation together," former Agriculture Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar said during a short debate on drought in the Upper House.

Among 11 states, Uttar Pradesh is worst affected followed by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana, Rajasthan and Gujarat, he said and emphasised the need to provide immediate relief.

While there is no shortage of foodgrains in the country this year, the drinking water crisis is "serious", he said.

"We have to give full attention to drinking water. Why do we have this problem? We have to think of short and long term policy and serious solutions to address this issue," he said, and suggested that the government focus on water conservation and rainwater harvesting to boost groundwater level.

He also asked the government to complete 312 pending irrigation projects in India, of which 240 projects are in five states including Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

Urging the Centre to be considerate towards the states facing drought, Pawar said "every state expects the government at the centre to help them out. In 2015-16, the states made their demand for relief package. Was it met?"

"The actual release was less than 50%. I think there should be some improvement (in giving funds)," he said, and asked the government to ensure that states use relief funds for water conservation.

Against the demand of Rs 3,830 crore drought relief fund, Karnataka was sanctioned only Rs 1,540 crore for losses incurred due to drought during the 2015-16 kharif season. Similarly, Chhattisgarh was given Rs 855 crore against Rs 6,093 crore, while Madhya Pradesh was given Rs 1,875 crore against requirement of Rs 4,884 crore, he said.

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