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21 April 2016

Rs 7,329 crore released for rural jobs scheme, centre tells SC

Written by Jayant Chaudhary

The centre told the Supreme Court that it had already released Rs 7,329 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for 2016-17, in an effort to ease wage payments for those employed under the scheme, given the drought in large parts of the country. The government, through additional solicitor general P.S. Narasimha, told the court that it has also disbursed Rs 12,230 crore to states to clear MGNREGS wage arrears from 2015-16.

The centre’s response came during a hearing on a public interest litigation filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, a non-profit seeking relief for drought-hit regions in the country. The plea sought timely disbursement of crop loans, drought relief, help in procurement of subsidized cattle fodder and formulation of an integrated water policy. The south-west monsoon, which irrigates over half of India’s crop area, recorded a deficit of 14% in 2015, the second straight year of sub-par rains; in 2014, the rain deficit was 12%. Since then, 10 states have declared drought—Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan. After recording crop losses, several of these drought-hit states are now facing an acute drinking water crisis. In at least two states, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, Indian Railways is bringing water to parched areas in trains. The apex court told the centre that it had the responsibility to inform states of impending drought. “The central government has a responsibility to tell states that you’re headed for trouble. As the central government, you get a lot of information. Inform the states and ask them to take precautions. It’s not just money, it’s your duty to say please be careful, there’s a drought situation,” the court said.

News Source : Mint - 21 April 2016

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