Over 29,000 villages under 233 blocks covering 27 districts out of 30 districts of Odisha have been severely impacted by the drought of 2015-16. About 1.68 crore people comprising 40 percent of the State’s population have been affected in varying degrees.
The state government has submitted a memorandum seeking Central Assistance of Rs.2345 crore. However, the Centre has approved only Rs.815 crore and released only Rs.600 crore to the State towards agricultural input subsidy against Rs.2345 crore sought for by the State.
In view of severe drought conditions in the state, Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik recently met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and the meeting focussed on the extent of drought faced by Odisha, relief activities undertaken by the State Government, assistance sought from Government of India to manage drought and the strategy of the State Government regarding drought proofing.
The Chief Minister informed that the State Government has responded to the situation and has taken a number of steps to assist the affected people, especially the farmers. These, inter alia, include measures aimed at augmenting rural and urban water supply like sinking new deep borewells, providing drinking water in areas facing scarcity through tankers and enhancing irrigation potential by undertaking minor irrigation projects, rain water harvesting structures, deep borewells in hard rock areas and reviving defunct irrigation projects.
Odisha has invested substantial funds out of its own resources by providing additional 50 days of wage employment under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and additional 30 percent wages over and above the approved MGNREGS rate for Odisha. He added that agriculture input subsidy has already been provided to 9 lakh affected farmers and the process is continuing to cover the balance affected farmers. Enhancing fodder production by providing seeds and establishing over 15,000 cattle camps also forms a part of this State’s strategy, he added.
Patnaik expressed concern that Government of India have approved only Rs.815 crore and released only Rs.600 crore to the State towards agricultural input subsidy against Rs.2345 crore sought for by the State.
The State has not received any Central Assistance for other critical interventions necessary for drought mitigation such as conversion of crop loans, minor irrigation projects, provision of fodder, food assistance and drinking water. The Chief Minister urged upon the Prime Minister to approve and release the balance shortfall of Rs.1745 crore to the State at the earliest. In addition, the Chief Minister desired that the wage rate under MGNREGS for Odisha should be increased from Rs.174 per day to Rs.200 per day and 3 additional rake points at Bamur in Angul district, Rengali in Sambalpur district and Dunguripali in Sonepur district be established for proper distribution of fertilizers across the State.
The Chief Minister informed that the State Government accords the highest priority to irrigation and the budget for Water Resources Department in the State is more than Rs.7000 crore accounting for 13 percent of the total Plan size. He impressed upon the Prime Minister that the Union Government should lay equal emphasis on irrigation, particularly for States like Odisha, which has only about 40 percent of the cropped area under irrigation.
The Chief Minister mentioned that Odisha was the first State to complete all the 30 District Irrigation Plans amounting to Rs.35,000 crore and submitted the same in time to the Union Government. He impressed upon the Prime Minister that the implementation of the said proposal can substantially increase the income of the farmers – perhaps double it in five years as envisioned.
In the last four years Odisha has received only Rs.210 crore under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) against the recommendation of Rs.1257 crore from the Central Water Commission (CWC). Again, against the recommendation of Rs.321 crore by CWC under Repair, Renovation and Rehabilitation (RRR) the State has received only Rs.175 crore.
Prime Minister assured to look into the concerns raised by the Chief Minister.