From the Viewsroom

Drought’s a policy failure

Rajalakshmi Nirmal | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 15, 2016

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Surely, we don’t need the courts to tell us it’s a disaster!

On Friday, the Supreme Court cracked the whip on the Centre and States for their inaction with respect to tackling the drought situation. It asked the Centre to release adequate funds under the rural jobs scheme for drought-hit States and provide foodgrain at subsidised rates. Earlier last week, it had asked the Centre to set up a national plan for risk assessment and crisis management during disasters and ordered that a standard methodology be used for declaring a drought. 

It is strange that in a country in which over 30 crore people in 13 States are affected by water scarcity, the judiciary has to tell the government that the country is facing a drought. States show great reluctance in declaring drought as it shows up their inefficiency in managing water resources. The result: people in rural districts suffer in the absence of relief measures.

This is, however, not the first time the country has faced this kind of situation. India saw a significant loss in foodgrain production and a drop in farm incomes in 18 of the last 54 years, which is approximately once every three years. But, 10 years after the formulation of the National Disaster Management Act, there is still no national plan for preventing disasters or preparing for them. The country also sorely lacks a proper water management policy. It is baffling why Maharashtra, which frequently ends up with water scarcity, grows a water guzzling crop such as sugarcane. With rains getting more variable every year, rainwater harvesting and other conservation and storage methods need to be adopted. Groundwater resources should be replenished and wastage curtailed. Each State should have its own ‘water code’ to check irresponsible use. 

Immediately, however, the Centre should focus on bringing more food-for-work programmes in badly affected rural districts and act on the order of the Supreme Court. States should offer relief measures and financial aid without delay.

Chief Research Analyst

Published on May 15, 2016
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