New Delhi: An estimated 164 million children are severely affected by drought and Prime Minister Narendra Modi should declare a national emergency, child rights activist and Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi said on Tuesday.

In a letter to the prime minister, Satyarthi wrote that due to the “drought and ongoing water crisis, children are becoming increasingly vulnerable".

“Reports of children being forced into child labour, trafficking, child marriage and the devadasi system are coming to light," the letter said, urging the Prime Minister to make children a top priority in relief and rehabilitation work.

“Disturbing reports of families leaving their girl child in temples to work as devadasis are coming from states like Karnataka, Marathwada in Maharashtra and Telangana," Satyarthi said during a press interaction in Delhi.

The Marathwada region has seen 1,400 farm suicides since January and about 3,500 children were pushed into child labour and trafficking, the Nobel laureate said.

There is also a sharp increase in child labour and school dropouts in the Bundelkhand region (spread across 13 districts in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh) but there is no proper assessment and monitoring, he added.

“I hope the prime minister will listen to the Mann Ki Baat of our children," he said referring to Modi’s monthly radio broadcast.

He pointed out that despite the grave situation, Parliament has not discussed the drought situation, showing a lack of political will to handle the crisis.

In 2015—the second consecutive year of deficit rains—as many as 11 states declared a drought after the June-September south-west monsoon recorded a deficit of 14% compared to the long period average.

Successive years of poor rainfall have worsened the drinking water situation with more than 25% of rural habitations in India facing scarcity, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said last week.

The government last month told the Supreme Court that an estimated 330 million people—nearly a quarter of India’s population—in 10 states have been affected by drought.