Cong Demands Special Package for Drought, Flood-Hit Farmers

Congress today asked the government to announce a special package for farmers affected by drought and floods saying the country would not survive if their condition continued to be precarious.

Initiating a debate on flood and drought situation in the country, Ravneet Singh (Cong) said there should be measures to save farmers from natural calamities like drought and floods like special assistance to small farmers and crop insurance schemes.

Reminding the NDA government of previous UPA regime's Rs 72,000 crore loan waiver scheme that benefited four crore farmers, Singh said the Centre must draft a new scheme for farmers to help them in crisis.

"When the farmers are safe, the country will be safe," he said. The Congress member said drought like situation prevailed in 11 out of 22 districts in his state of Punjab where farmers need urgent government assistance.

Singh said though the 2014 budget has announced government's plans to introduce bullet trains, there is no mention about how to help the farmers, their storage facilities and logistical provisions.

M Chandrakasi (AIADMK) asked the government to do the needful to develop modern early warning system for natural disasters like tsunami to allay the apprehensions of the people living in coastal areas.

Chandrakasi said Tamil Nadu is the worst affected state whenever there is cyclone, floods or drought and hence the central government must provide adequate funds to the southern state. 

Tapas Mandal (TMC) said India is such a vast country that when one part of it faces the onslaught of floods, another part faces drought and that is why special initiative should be taken for the welfare of farmers.

Mandal said time has come for the country to go for different types of crops rather than traditional farming to compensate the damage done by natural disasters like floods and drought.

"We have to go for crops which consume less water as the country will face severe water crisis in the coming years," he said.

BJD member Nagendra Kumar Pradhan said small and marginal farmers in Odisha were the worst affected from cyclone and floods and demanded financial assistance from the Centre. Pradhan said 80 per cent rainfall in Odisha takes place in just three months, leading to severe hardships to farmers.

He claimed that the Centre had announced a Rs 1,000 crore package when cyclone hit Odisha coast in October 2013 but only Rs 463 crore reached the state so far and demanded release of the remaining amount.

Sanjay Jadhav (Shiv Sena) said though 70 per cent of the population in the country are farmers, little or no attention is paid towards welfare of farmers.

He demanded special package for the drought-hit farmers of Maharashtra and said big farmers always got government assistance but small farmers were deprived of it.

"We must take special initiative for their welfare," he said. T Narasimham (TDP) asked the government to instal early warning system along the coastline for cyclone and tsunami to save people from natural disasters.

K Kavitha (TRS) said there was need to discuss the issue of man-inflicted floods also.

She said the government should ensure that the latest data on water level of river Godavari should be considered while going ahead with the Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh as it could lead to floods.

She also suggested steps to ensure that the course of rivers is not changed due to "political considerations" as it will hurt the interest of lower riparian states.

M B Rajesh (CPI-M) quoted official data to claim that every 31 minute a farmer commits suicide. Referring to droughts, he demanded a moratorium on loans to farmers.

Dharmendra Yadav (SP) said Uttar Pradesh has been facing both drought and floods and demanded Central assistance to tackle the situation.

He said though the country is facing floods and drought, the National Disaster Management Authority has not been reconstituted by the new government at the Centre.

Shar Singh Ghubaya (SAD) referred to the plight of the farming community of Punjab and said while the Centre releases funds to tackle floods, the state government is not authorised to draw funds. 

Suggesting that local bodies be empowered to deal with natural calamities, Renuka Butta (YSR Congress) said there was need to make the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) more strong to help it achieve its objective.

She said an integrated and coordinated approach must be taken in making the NDMA more proactive and meaningful.

Mullappally Ramachandran (Cong) too said efforts should be made to strengthen disaster management preparedness and Centre should support the states in dealing with natural calamities.

Pralhad Joshi (BJP) urged the government to make crop insurance farmer-friendly and also come up with weather-based insurance schemes.

He said the allocation to the farmers from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) be based on the investments made by the farmer, including for sowing.

Hansraj Ahir (BJP) demanded that the Centre conduct a survey in Maharashtra to ascertain the losses to farmers and also the reasons behind farmers committing suicide.

He also urged upon the agriculture minister to convene a meeting to check how many projects of construction of dams and barrages were pending.

Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF) asked the government to take effective steps to ensure that the compensation amount reaches those who are hit by flood or drought.

Ramen Deka (BJP) regretted that the Brahmaputra board has become a "white elephant" and has done nothing to deal with the flood situation in Assam. He suggested that steps should be taken to prevent erosion of land by flooding.

E T Mohammed Basheer (IUML) wanted government to take action to save rivers from discarded materials as well as sand mafia.

Niranjan Jyoti (BJP) urged the Centre to direct state governments to provide electricity to farmers so that they can irrigate their fields and face the drought situation.

Kaushalendra Kumar (JDU) said government should draw up a scheme to deal with the flood and drought situation in a sustained manner.

Among those who participated in the discussion include Pashupati Nath Singh (BJP), P Venugopal (AIADMK), Sushil Kumar Singh (BJP) and Jagdambika Pal (BJP).

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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