Make contingency plans to tackle drought: PM to states

August 8th, 2009 - 4:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said agriculture had been adversely affected in several parts of the country due to the delayed and deficient monsoon this year and urged state governments to draw up contingency plans to deal with the situation without delay.
The prime minister also offered all assistance to the states from the central government to deal with the situation and said the government “should not hesitate to take strong measures and intervene in the market” if the need arises.

Speaking at a conference of state chief secretaries here, Manmohan Singh said: “Today the country is facing a difficult situation. The monsoon has been delayed and in many places it has been deficient, though some parts of the country have received normal or excess rainfall.

“Agricultural operations have been adversely affected in several parts of the country causing distress to farmers and their families.

“We should not hesitate to take strong measures and intervene in the market if the need were to arise,” he said.

“The need is for us to act promptly, collectively and effectively. I assure you of our government’s full support regarding any additional assistance that may be required in your efforts. In no case should we allow citizens to go hungry,” he said.

The prime minister’s statement comes a day after the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the average monsoon rainfall has been deficient by 25 percent in the country for the monsoon period June 1-Aug 5. The shortfall has been far higher in traditional breadbasket states like Punjab and Haryana.

The prime minister said rice was the worst affected crop due to the erratic monsoon. “A deficit of more than six million hectares has been reported in paddy,” Singh said.

Singh, however, said the government was in a position to ensure adequate availability of foodgrains in the drought affected areas.

“We are helped by the fact that we are operating today against a backdrop of record production and procurement of foodgrains in both 2007-08 and 2008-09. This was made possible by the substantial increase in the Minimum Support Prices and other policy initiatives. Thus, we are in a position to ensure adequate availability of foodgrains in the drought affected areas,” he said.

He warned that the reduced production of kharif crops in the current year may have an inflationary impact on prices of food items in the coming months and urged the states to work together with the central government and activate the Public Distribution System.

He also asked state governments to ensure effective enforcement of stockholding limits and strong action against hoarders and black marketers.

“I would urge that wherever there is need, the states should immediately commence relief operations. In case the Contingency Relief Fund available with the states is not sufficient, they should quickly prepare a detailed memorandum for assistance under the National Calamity Contingency Fund,” the prime minister said.

“In short, the contingency plan for crops, drinking water, human and animal health, fodder etc., should be brought into operation without delay and a close watch kept on availability of foodgrains and prices of essential commodities,” Singh said.

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