PATNA: With as many as 35 of Bihar's 40 districts currently facing a drought-like situation, the Nitish Kumar-led government said during a special debate in the Assembly on Wednesday that the state could be declared as "drought-hit" if it receives less than average rainfall in the next two to three days.
Amid massive criticism from the Opposition RJD legislators about the measures put in place by the state government to deal with the situation, agriculture minister Prem Kumar of BJP said a final decision would be taken on July 31.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has convened a meeting of the crisis management group that day to discuss the drought-like situation and may declare the state as drought hit the same day, he added. As per the Centre's guidelines, a state can be declared as drought-hit if it receives less than 50 per cent of average rainfall between June and August, and the sowing of kharif crops is less than 50 per cent by August 31.
Bihar has seen a 48 per cent rain deficit at the end of three weeks in July and the sowing of paddy has been only 19 per cent of the target. Asserting that the state government has been monitoring the situation, Prem Kumar told the Assembly that diesel subsidy was increased to Rs 50 per litre from last year's Rs 35 per litre for farmers and power tariff rate was reduced from 96 to 75 paisa per unit in rural areas. Besides, the state has earmarked Rs 60 crore for diesel subsidy and Rs 15 crore for alternative crops, he added.
"The government has woken up to the terrible farm crisis too late. We demand that the state be declared as drought-hit immediately and farmers' loans be waived," said Tejashwi Yadav, the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.
HAM chief and former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi demanded that farmers be given free electricity for irrigation purposes to tide over the drought-like situation. While Tejashwi Yadav said only 10,000 farmers have registered for availing of the benefits of various schemes, Prem Kumar said as many as 3,23,676 farmers had registered online.
Sharecroppers will also be given the diesel subsidy, added the minister. Legislators of the Opposition RJD, Congress and CPI(ML) were not satisfied with the state government's reply. They first trooped into the Well of the House, raised slogans against the government and then walked out of the House.