Lawyer Prashant Bhushan asked the court for interim relief for the Bundelkhand region, saying hunger deaths will be inevitable if relief is not provided. Photo: Mint
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan asked the court for interim relief for the Bundelkhand region, saying hunger deaths will be inevitable if relief is not provided. Photo: Mint

SC directs government to expedite drought relief to affected farmers

The PIL filed by non-profit Swaraj Abhiyan sought the court's intervention for ensuring proper supply of grains, pulses and sugar through the public distribution system as per national food security law of 2013

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the central government and 11 drought-affected states in a plea seeking relief for farmers.

The 11 states are Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Odisha.

In a public interest litigation filed by non-profit Swaraj Abhiyan, a bench comprising justices Madan B. Lokur and S.A Bobde asked the government to reply indicating the steps taken in these regions.

The petition sought the court’s intervention for ensuring proper supply of grains, pulses and sugar through the public distribution system as per national food security law of 2013.

The law places an obligation on the state to provide 5kg of food grain to each person in a household every month, which many states, including Uttar Pradesh, are yet to implement.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan asked the court for interim relief for the Bundelkhand region, saying hunger deaths will be inevitable if relief is not provided. The court agreed to consider all issues together on 4 January.

Bundelkhand is facing crop loss, disputes over water, starvation, and deaths due to hunger and malnutrition, according to a survey by Swaraj Abhiyan.

The survey covered over 1,200 households in 108 villages spread across seven districts in Bundelkhand. Conducted between 27 October and 9 November, it was designed by Yogendra Yadav, founder of Swaraj Abhiyan, and economist Jean Dreze.

The petition also sought timely disbursement of crop loans, drought compensation, help in procurement of subsidized cattle fodder and formulating an integrated water policy in so as to prepare for any future drought.

India was facing an agrarian crisis, with at least nine states declaring drought many of its regions, Mint reported in November. The southwest monsoon recorded a deficit of 14%, the second straight year of sub-par rains; last year’s rain deficit was 12%. This year, 302 of the 640 districts in India experienced deficit rains, or at least a 20% shortfall compared with the average.

States including Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have declared a drought while Haryana and Bihar are likely to follow suit. The first six states have asked for 24,341 crore aid from the central government.

On 4 December, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh told Parliament that deficit rain this year has affected crops spread over an area of 19 million hectare in seven states among nine that declared a drought.

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