BHUBANESWAR: With the dust of panchayat polls slowly settling down, the Government on Thursday announced the much-awaited drought relief for the affected. According to Revenue and Disaster Management Minister SN Patro, 13,032 villages of 133 blocks and 156 wards of 34 urban local bodies in 19 districts are drought-hit. Seven districts __ Balangir, Ganjam, Jharsuguda, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Nayagarh (only one in coastal belt) and Rayagada __ are fully affected.
The Government unveiled a special package for farmers that include 50 per cent waiver of water tax and land cess and extending short-term loan payback period. As a mitigation measure, distressed families will be provided free rice of one kg per head (adult) and 500 gm for children for the next 60 days.
As per the crop-cutting reports from districts during last year kharif, crop loss of more than 50 per cent has been reported from these affected villages and wards. Ganjam is the worst-hit with a loss of more than 50 per cent from 3,047 villages of 22 blocks. Western Odisha district Balangir and Rayagada from the southern belt are also badly hit by drought. While 1,770 villages of 14 blocks of Balangir district were drought-hit, 1,228 villages of 11 blocks of Rayagada have suffered substantial crop loss, Patro said.
No crop loss has been reported from coastal districts of Balasore, Cuttack, Jajpur, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur and Puri. However, Nayagarh faces a severe crisis with 1,464 villages of eight blocks being declared drought-hit.
As per the drought compensation announced by the Government, agricultural input subsidy will be given to actual cultivators, not the land owners. Affected farmers will get ` 3,000 per hectare for rainfed areas, ` 6,000 per hectare for areas having assured irrigation and ` 8,000 per hectare for perennial crops. After drawing flak from the Opposition parties for ignoring the plight of the farmers in the drought-affected areas of the State, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced a package in September last year.
The Government has already directed the lending institutions to convert short-term agricultural loans to long-term ones. Land cess and water tax have been waived by 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent will be paid next year without interest. The ex gratia amount during natural calamities has also been raised. While ` 1 lakh was earlier paid in a drowning case, it has now been increased to ` 1.5 lakh.
Special package for farmers
Distressed farmers will be provided free rice for the next 60 days
Govt waives water tax and land cess by 50 pc in drought-hit areas
Agriculture input subsidy to be given to actual cultivators not land owners
Short-term agriculture loans to be converted to long-term ones