Centre approves Rs795 crore drought relief for Karnataka
Bengaluru: The central government on Thursday approved Rs795.54 crore as drought relief for Karnataka for the failed winter crop in 2016—a fourth of the amount sought by the state.
A high-level committee chaired by Union home minister Rajnath Singh and including finance minister Arun Jaitley and agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, among others, made the announcement.
The panel examined a proposal for drought relief based on the report of an inter-ministerial team which visited Karnataka, according to an official statement.
Approval of the drought relief package comes days after the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government of Karnataka announced a waiver of crop and short-term loans of up to Rs50,000 owed by farmers. The waiver, which will cost Rs8,165 crore, is estimated to benefit 2.2 million farmers in the state.
The latest rounds of funds are far short of Rs3,310 crore demanded by the state government after drought ruined the rabi (winter) crop.
Karnataka is facing one of its worst and longest dry spells. The state declared 139 talukas—or administrative units—as drought-hit in the kharif (summer crop) season; 160 of 177 talukas were declared drought-hit in the rabi season.
“We are glad the HLC (high-level committee) meeting was scheduled for today and the decision has been taken. Though the relief amount is lower than our demand, it is higher than Rs607 crore sanctioned for rabi crop loss in 2015-16,” Krishna Byre Gowda, Karnataka’s agriculture minister, was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India on Thursday.
On 1 April, the centre had released Rs1,235.52 crore for Karnataka from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
Farmers in the state and elsewhere in the country have in recent months intensified a campaign for loan waivers amid rural distress caused by failed rains and plummeting agricultural produce prices.
Since April, four states—Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh—have announced farm loan waivers amounting to around Rs90,000 crore and benefitting close to 15 million farmers.
“There is always delay in sanctioning of the funds after the HLC decision. There was three months’ delay in release of drought relief funds for the kharif crop loss in 2016-17,” Gowda said, calling for an early release of the funds to assist debt-laden farmers to pay for present year’s sowing expenses following decent rains in the state.