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Ramesh asks states not to play politics over drought

Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra are facing the worst drought in recent times, but the states should not play "politics" by inflating their memoranda for central assistance, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Friday.

New Delhi: Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra are facing the worst drought in recent times, but the states should not play "politics" by inflating their memoranda for central assistance, Union Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Friday.

Observing that "drought in India is politics", Ramesh said assistance sought by Karnataka (Rs 11,000 crore), Maharashtra (Rs 10,000 crore) and Gujarat (Rs 14,000 crore) as drought relief were "inflated" and they have been asked to "re-do" their documents and submit it in a week`s time.

"...Many of the demands have nothing to do with the immediate crisis," the Rural Development Minister said.

"It is very clear that this is a very very serious drought. Drought in Maharashtra is the worst in last 20 years, Gujarat drought is the worst in last 25 years and Karnataka drought is the worst in last 40 years," Ramesh told reporters after reviewing the situation in three states with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Chief Ministers.

"Now, every state using this opportunity to make huge demands from the Centre...States are asking money for completing irrigation projects. That`s why they come up with the inflated memorandums," Ramesh said.

"So, what we have told the state governments is please separate your demands into two -- what is your immediate drought related demands and the second part is what is your requirement for long term projects. So, they have been asked to re-do the documents. We have given them one week time."

He assured that there will be no step-motherly attitude towards the non-Congress ruled states.

Both Ramesh and Pawar will visit Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan next week to review the drought situation in these states.

Assuring his Ministry`s "fullest support" to drought-affected states, Ramesh said the Ministry would revise the labour budget for current year to meet the increased demand and added that funds are not a constraint under MNREGA.

"Any state government that wants to revise the labour budget for (MNREGA) this year in view of the drought situation, we will revise the labour budget," he said.

The labour budget of Karnataka for this year is about Rs 2,600 crore, Gujarat Rs 993 crore and the budget that has been approved for Maharashtra is about Rs 1,500 crore.

"We are expecting at least about 25 to 30 per cent increase in the labour budget because of drought. We have now told all the drought-affected states that please come with revised labour budget. And we will honour the revised labour budget," the Minister said.

He said that the government will raise the limit of employment from 100 days to 150 days per household in all notified drought-affected talukas.

"If the labour demand increases after two months, we will review the situation once again and if need be, we will raise it to 200 days," Ramesh said.

The Rural Development Minister said 30 new works like agriculture-related works, watershed-related works and livestock-related works have been included in MNREGA and many of those works have relevance for drought-affected areas.

"So we have told the state governments to ensure that these works should be given priority," he said.
Ramesh also announced that Rs 1 crore will be released immediately under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme for every notified drought-affected district.

"We have released Rs 15 crore for Karnataka, we have released Rs 12 crore to Maharashtra, We have released Rs 11 crore to Rajasthan. Today, Gujarat told us that they would notify all 24 districts. Every districts that is notified, they will get immediately Rs 1 crore for drinking water under calamity relief component," he said.

Under the Integrated Watershed Management Programme, which has very important implications for drought management, the Ministry would releasing the full money and fast track it for all drought-affected states, Ramesh said.


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