New Delhi: Chairing a high level meeting on Saturday to review the drought situation with chief ministers of Rajasthan and Jharkhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called for a mass movement on water conservation and rainwater harvesting.
While Jharkhand is planning to double its irrigated area within two years by building 600,000 farm ponds, Rajasthan will construct 700,000 water conservation structures within the next four years, said a release from the Prime Minister’s office.
For Rajasthan—which has faced a drought in 61 of the past 67 years—Modi suggested a revival of traditional water harvesting structures through public participation to state chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Jharkhand was advised by Modi to regularly monitor the implementation of the recently launched crop insurance scheme, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
While implementing the employment guarantee scheme, the Prime Minister asked Jharkhand to use better technology to track asset creation through geo-tagging. He also asked for all water bodies to be identified with a unique number.
Saturday’s meeting follows a string of meetings last week where Modi met chief ministers of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to review the drought situation. Also, in a series of judgements last week, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the centre and states for lagging behind in taking up drought relief work.
Rapping states for an “ostrich-like attitude” on denying reality, the court has directed the centre throw open the public distribution system to all rural families in drought hit areas, and asked it to ensure there are no delays in making wage payments under the employment guarantee scheme.
Large swathes of India are in the grip of drought after two successive years of below-average rainfall. The 2015 southwest monsoon, which irrigates over half of India’s crop area, was 14% short of normal last year, after a 12% deficit in 2014.
So far, 266 districts in 11 states have been declared drought-hit, the government told Parliament last month. A total of 330 million people in 10 states are affected, it had earlier informed the Supreme Court.