New delhi: Even as the government maintained that the monsoon is likely to get stronger over the next few weeks, the Opposition on Wednesday demanded the Centre to declare a drought in the country and offer financial assistance to farmers who are dependent on the monsoon.
A senior minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government admitted that the monsoon situation in the north-west is “worrying” and that the rains in July would not compensate for the shortfall in June in this region. He said the progress of the rains was unlikely to be good in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and eastern Uttar Pradesh as the monsoon rains had started moving south, away from the region.
“As of 12 July, 25 of 36 meterological subdivisions fall under scanty or deficient monsoon category. But the mitigation strategy has to be worked out at the states,” the minister, who did not want to be identified, said.
Dry tension: Farmers ploughing a field in north India. Parts of the country face the threat of a drought after recording weak rains. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
In the Lok Sabha, urging the government to declare a “drought”, the opposition demanded that the government call a meeting of chief ministers, leaders of all political parties and experts to chalk out strategies to deal with the “foodgrain scarcity, power shortage and drinking water scarcity”, which, they said, would be the outcome of deficient rains.
The proceedings in the Lower House was adjourned for half-an-hour after the opposition MPs led by Janata Dal (United), or JD(U), leader Sharad Yadav wanted Speaker Meira Kumar to suspend Question Hour and discuss the “drought situation” in the country. Lawmakers cutting across party lines said the government must chalk out a contingency plan to deal with the situation.
Communist Party of India MP Gurudas Dasgupta said rice acerage in the country has dropped by 20% and the area under oilseeds cultivation has fallen 45%. The government, however, did not respond to this.
Parts of India face the threat of a drought after recording weak rains, despite flash floods in Orissa and Mumbai claiming the lives of at least 15 people. In Assam and Manipur, authorities have already declared drought after scanty rainfall. Four districts in Jharkhand were also declared drought-hit.
Although stating that the monsoon will improve in the latter half of July, the government has banned export of wheat. However, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan said: “If there is a shortage of foodgrain, we will import. We have plenty of stock for the current year.”