Bengaluru: The central government on Thursday approved a drought relief package of Rs1,782 crore for Karnataka—less than half of what the state had asked for and about three months after the demand was made.
The announcement makes Karnataka the first state to receive drought relief for last year’s farm damages. The relief is aimed at mitigating losses from sub-par rains during the June-November kharif period. The amount falls far short of the Rs4,702 crore demanded by the state government.
Karnataka declared drought in 110 out of 177 talukas or administrative units in October. On an average, the state used to get 280mm and 206mm of rainfall in July and August respectively, but in 2016, it was deficient by 17% and 39% in the respective months, according to state-government-run Karnataka State Natural Disaster Management Corporation.
Other southern states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala too saw a deficiency, but the damage was worse in Karnataka which had suffered its worst dry spell in close to half a century in 2015. In fact, the state has not received adequate rainfall for the past six years.
Krishna Byre Gowda, state agriculture minister, said, “It’s inadequate. The state is suffering from a very severe drought. This year, there is not much pressure on the Government of India from other states on account of drought, unlike last year. We were expecting a much higher allocation. We met the honourable prime minister very specifically requesting him to intervene to ensure a more liberal consideration. The state will continue to do its best to tackle this challenge.”
While data for the last two years is not immediately available, estimates released by National Crime Records Bureau this week showed the number of farmer suicides in Karnataka between 2014 and 2015 stood at 1,569, the second highest tally in India.
An all-party delegation from the state, led by chief minister Siddaramaiah, had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December to request him to release the entire drought relief fund sought by the state.
Kerala declared a drought last year while Tamil Nadu has been demanding that the state be declared drought-hit. Earlier this week, Tamil Nadu chief minister O. Panneerselvam said a high-level committee will be formed to assess the extent of farm distress.