New Delhi: A high-level committee under the home ministry on Friday approved a financial assistance of 723 crore for drought-hit Karnataka. The state had submitted a memorandum to the centre on 23 January seeking an assistance of 1,417 crore for damage to the rabi or winter crop due to widespread drought.

Karnataka is the only state to declare widespread damage to the rabi crop and seek central assistance.

Last year, 11 states including Karnataka declared a drought after the monsoon-dependent kharif crop was hit by deficit rainfall.

The centre provided assistance of over 12,000 crore for these drought-hit states, against 38,000 crore sought by them. Karnataka received central assistance of 1,540 crore towards losses sustained to its kharif harvest.

The drought in 2015 was preceded by unseasonal rains damaging the winter harvest last year, and a monsoon deficit that led to a dip in kharif output in 2014.

The last time the country experienced back-to-back droughts was in 1986-87. It was only the fourth time in a century that the country has had to battle two consecutive years of scant rainfall.

The repeated weather woes have led to plummeting growth rates and hurt farmer incomes. The farm sector contracted by 0.2% in 2014-15, compared to a growth rate of 4.2% the year before.

In 2015-16, growth is estimated at 1.1% but could see a downward revision if the estimated winter harvest falls short of government estimates.

Despite a widespread drought hurting India’s monsoon-dependent kharif crop and a warm and dry winter that is likely to affect rabi crops such as wheat and pulses, the government has estimated that foodgrain output will rise in 2015-16.

The second advance estimate released by the agriculture ministry in mid-February said foodgrain output will rise to 253.2 million tonnes (mt) in 2015-16 from 252 mt the previous year, which was also a deficit monsoon year.

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