New Delhi: Concerned over drought conditions in several parts of the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the chief ministers of all states here on Monday on measures to salvage the situation.
The Prime Minister would make use of the presence of chief ministers, who are gathering here for a meeting on internal security, to discuss the worsening agriculture scenario following inadequate rainfall and shrinkage in area under cultivation, sources said.
According to recent data, as many as 161 districts out of a total of about 600 have been declared drought affected.
Singh in his address to the chief secretaries of various states last week had expressed concern over rising prices of essential commodities like pulses, sugar and vegetables and had asked them to activate the public distribution system (PDS), “which is an important safety net especially for the poor and helps cushion them against price rise.”
The Prime Minister also emphasised the need for planning for the coming Rabi (winter crop) season to compensate for the loss in output during the Kharif (summer crop) season.
Singh, according to sources, is likely to ask the states to take steps to curb speculative trading by taking anti-hoarding measures and make use of funds available under NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) to expand irrigation facilities in the drought-hit areas.
Meanwhile, the centre has written to the states to initiate steps for saving crops for the forthcoming Rabi season as water scarcity is likely to continue.
In a letter to the chief secretaries of various states, agriculture ministry on Wednesday said, “we feel it is extremely important, more so for coming Rabi season, when water stress conditions are likely to persist, if the present monsoon trend continues.”
The states, it said, should make use of the funds available under NREGA to develop irrigation facilities in different parts of the country.
The recent NREGA amendment, according to the letter, “opens a new window of opportunity for construction of water conservation structures and other ... moisture conservation measures, apart from providing irrigation in the fields of majority of farmers in the country.”
The ministry also underlined the need for convergence and implementation of various schemes and programmes in a coordinated manner to mitigate the adverse impact of water stress and deficient rainfall on the agriculture sector.