Drought relief funds: Pawar asks K'taka to rework memoranda



Bangalore: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday asked the Karnataka government to rework its proposal seeking Central funds for drought relief and said the state's demand would be considered in the EGoM meeting scheduled next week.

Pawar, who heads the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on drought, held discussions with Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar and his senior Cabinet colleagues to discuss immediate measures to mitigate the impact of drought.

EGoM member and Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh also was present at the meeting. Shettar said the state government had submitted two memoranda to the Centre. In the first memorandum submitted on November 21 last year, a relief of Rs 2,605.99 crore was sought, he said. However, the Centre had approved only Rs 186.68 crore, of which only Rs 70.23 crore has been released, he added.

In the second memorandum, submitted on May 5 this year, the Centre was requested to sanction Rs 5,864.25 crore towards drought relief measures, Shettar said.

As per the letter dated June 28, 2012, Shettar said the Centre had released Rs 282.35 crore. The state has spent Rs 2,150.82 crore towards drought relief works, he said, adding in 2010-11 alone the state had spent Rs 2,158.31 crore under MGNREGS against Rs 1,923.92 crore released by the Centre.

"In addition to this, we took a landmark decision of waiving the crop loans upto Rs 25,000 availed by farmers from August 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, which will burden the state exchequer to the tune of over Rs 3,500 crore," he said.

On Shettar's statement that the Centre had released only a "fraction of the money" sought by the state for drought relief, Pawar said, "the factual position seems to be different from what the Chief Minister has said".

Pawar said Rs 286 crore under the National Rural Drinking Water Supply and Rs 334 crore under Watershed Management Programme would be disbursed to Karnataka as a measure to overcome the drought situation in the state.

So far Rs 71 crore under the National Rural Drinking Water supply has been given and the state's demand for more assistance under the scheme would be discussed in New Delhi at the meeting to be held next week, Pawar said.

Ramesh, who also holds the water supply and sanitation portfolio, said it was decided to divide the state's memeoranda into two segments at the meeting today.

First part would be the immediate financial assistance required by the state from the Centre to manage drought, which was the worst in 40 years.

The second part would be the additional measures and systems that Centre could provide to help Karnataka manage future droughts, its agriculture and water supply problems, he said.

The state government is expected to revise memorandum and submit it in the next two or three days and a final decision would be taken in EGoM.

Under National Drinking Water Supply scheme, Karnataka had demanded a contingency action plan of Rs 250 crore in 30 districts, Ramesh said, adding, the Centre agreed to release Rs 286 crore. For 2012-2013, Karnataka is expected to spend about Rs 2,400 crore on MGNREGS, but with the prevailing drought the Centre would increase it by another Rs 500 to Rs 600 crore, Ramesh said. "The additional expenditure will be met by the Centre," he said.

The Centre has decided to increase 100 days of work a year to one adult member of a family to 150 days for drought-affected talukas. "This additional expenses also will be met by the Centre," he said.

PTI