New Delhi: With the monsoon deficit widening to 16% of the 50-year average, the government has decided to increase work days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme as a relief measure to ease farm distress.

The government has decided to provide an additional 50 days of unskilled manual work in the financial year over and above the 100 days assured to job card holders, the agriculture ministry said in a release on Monday.

The provision is for rural areas where drought or natural calamities have been notified, it added.

The government hopes this will enable states to provide additional wage employment to rural poor in drought-affected areas. “The poorest rural households will benefit from this, as it will help in immediate absorption of rural seasonal unemployment, and reduce rural distress," it said.

As of Monday, the June-September southwest monsoon, which waters over half the country’s farmland, recorded a deficit of 16% of the long-period average.

Data from government forecaster India Meteorological Department shows that 18 of the 36 meteorological subdivisions have recorded deficit rainfall ranging from 20% to 44%.

Nearly 44% of the country’s area has borne the brunt of deficit rain so far, the data shows.

The worst-hit regions are Marathwada in Maharashtra, eastern and western Uttar Pradesh, parts of Gujarat and Karnataka, Telangana, Bihar and eastern Madhya Pradesh.

However, only Karnataka has declared a drought so far in parts of the state, making it the only state eligible to take up increased work under the employment guarantee scheme.

This is the second straight year of deficit monsoon. Last year, the southwest monsoon ended with a deficit of 12%, with several areas like Marathwada, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Telangana facing drought.

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