Govt rules out changes in drought relief norms

New Delhi: Government today ruled out any change in norms till 2015 for providing relief in the cases of drought, rejecting demands from various members in the Rajya Sabha for enhancement of compensation for drought. Replying to a Calling Attention Motion on the drought situation in Karnataka, Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat said the norms were fixed by the Norms Committee based on the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission.

"The Finance Commission is an independent organisation and even the Government of India has no interference…For changing the norms, we will have to wait till 2015," he said. Rawat said a central team will visit drought-hit Karnataka again on May 13 to assess the current situation. This will be for the second time in five months that a central team will visit the state following demands for enhancement of compensation through an all-party memorandum given by state chief minister recently.

He dismissed allegations by the opposition about Centre "delaying" grant of compensation to the state and being "insensitive" to the situation and said the opposition was giving a "political flavour" to it. Rawat said "Karnataka farmers` loss is India`s loss" and claimed the Centre had initiated a number of steps to provide relief to drought-hit Karnataka, where both rabi and kharif crops had failed.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, the Opposition lashed out at the Centre for adopting a "callous and casual" approach towards drought-hit Karnataka and watching a "tamasha (show)" and sought an immediate interim relief of Rs 1,500 crore. Initiating the discussion, M Venkiah Naidu (BJP) said, "The entire state is reeling under severe drought but Centre`s behaviour is callous and casual…it is totally unmoved and insensitive…is it a tamasha?"