Reeling under drought conditions in 145 out of a total 353 talukas of Maharashtra, the state government is taking several measures including seeking central assistance and requesting neighbouring state Karnataka to release water, to tackle the crisis.

The state has sought a central assistance of Rs 5,000 crore, including Rs 2,270 crore for relief measures. Last week, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who heads the group of ministers that decides on relief measures for drought-hit states, said he had received report from a Central team that recommended a financial assistance of Rs 778 crore to Maharashtra for water and related programmes.

The Centre should extend Rs. 1,000-crore aid to farmers of Tamil Nadu who have been facing an unprecedented drought in the wake of monsoon failure, P. Shanmugam, State general secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, said.

He told reporters here on Monday that nine farmers in various parts of the State had committed suicide recently, owing to crop failure. The Chief Minister did not announce relief for their families. Each family should be compensated to the tune of Rs. 10 lakh, besides being provided government jobs.

Idukki will get Rs one crore for drought relief works as part of a Rs 125 crore Central fund for various development projects in the five assembly constituencies of the district, P. T. Thomas, MP, has said.

He said that Rs 50 crore has been sanctioned under the Idukki Package and Rs 75 crore for construction of 34 roads under the Prime Minister's Gramin Saadak Yojana Scheme.

Initially, 15,000 litres will be treated a day for which a cost effective technology has been developed.

The State government has on Wednesday given in-principle approval to the district administration’s proposal to treat the water accumulated in abandoned stone quarries and distribute it as drinking water using the reverse osmosis technology. A meeting to discuss the proposal in detail will be held towards the end of this month, District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareed told The Hindu after meeting Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash. Fund for the project has been sought from the drought relief fund.

The Agrarian Services and Wildlife Ministry will provide assistance to farmers whose crops were destroyed due to the drought and help them re-cultivate using the present rainy condition.

Sri Lanka Ministry of Agrarian Services and Wildlife has taken steps to assist the farmers to re-cultivate the crops damaged due to the severe drought that affected the major agricultural districts

Central team to start district tours

The State has sought a revised drought-relief assistance of Rs. 1,884 crore from the Centre. The revised claim was presented before a Central team which arrived here on Tuesday to start field trips to assess the drought situation in various districts.

The State revised its earlier claim for Rs. 1,468 crore after taking into account the additional loss sustained by the Kerala State Electricity Board from poor rainfall.

Jharkhand State Level Bankers’ Committee in its 40th special meeting here, recently, on drought relief, has decided to exempt the farmers from paying back loan amount in the current financial year because of severe drought that had affected almost al the districts of the state.

The banks and the government officials who participated in the meeting also agreed that loans to existing and new farmers, including those who were allowed to pay back their loan dues next financial year could avail loans from the banks.

The Government of India is considering a proposal to notify farming as an essential service. This is ostensibly to bring drought relief to farmers suffering from a weak monsoon - a laudable goal indeed. However, if farming is deemed an "essential service", farmers and farm workers could lose many of their political and civic rights because the government can then invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act to ban strikes by agricultural workers, leaving them without collective bargaining power.

Rain-deficient Punjab and Haryana will perhaps have to work harder to attract Centre’s attention to monetary losses it suffered due to an errant monsoon this year.