Pawar asks state chief ministers to monitor drought, price rise

Food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today appealed to state chief ministers to personally monitor drought and price rise and to see that the steps initiated by the centre and the states are effectively implemented.

Speaking at the chief ministers' conference, Pawar requested states to take immediate steps for protecting the existing crops, use powers under the Essential Commodities Act to check hoarding of foodgrains and sugar, and to commence immediate relief. They must specially focus on drinking water and fodder, he proposed.

The special session of the chief ministers' conference on drought was chaired by the prime minister. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, home ministers Chidambaram and deputy chairman of the planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia also participated in the session.

He said the rain deficit in the country now stands at around 29 per cent against the initial estimate of a 96 per cent long period average rain. The live storage capacity of the reservoirs in the country have, however, improved from 12 per cent as of 4 June to 38 per cent as of 13 August.

This, he said, has caused a shortfall of 5.7 million hactares in paddy compared to last year. Oil seeds, in particular groundnut, and sugarcane coverage has also fallen. However, the coverage under coarse grain is marginally better than last year, mainly on account of good sowing of maize. Continuation of the prevailing climatic conditions are likely to affect production and productivity of the sown crop adversely, thereby negatively impacting the foodgrain availability, he said.

Pawar said, while the centre has been closely monitoring the situation with the state governments, there is a need for taking up area-specific agro-climatic based schemes and programmes to assess the crop losses in the remaining part of the Kharif season and try to compensate loss of production in Kharif during the coming rabi season.