CM announces additional drought assistance measures

Bhubaneswar: Amidst rising farmer suicides in State due to crop failure, chief minister Naveen Patnaik today waived of water cess in drought affected areas. In a video conference meeting with the collectors to review the drought situation, Patnaik also directed withholding of repayment of cooperative loans.

Moreover, distribution of agriculture subsidy in non-irrigated drought affected areas, where no cultivation has been undertaken, will begin by November 10, as per CM’s orders. In this regard, the collectors have been directed to employ retired and experienced field officials for both loss estimation and subsidy distribution.

Similarly, collectors will set up teams comprising field officials of Revenue, Agriculture, Cooperative and Water Resources departments and these teams will organize awareness and consultation camps. This team will create awareness about the drought package and assistance provided by the government and will also keep a strict vigil on money lenders. A farmers club will be set up in all the drought affected areas to maintain coordination between farmers and the administration. The tehsildars, BDOs, officials of Agriculture, Cooperative and Water resources departments have been directed to visit at least 10 such camps and submit reports to the collectors and a 24/7 control room and help desk will be set up for this purpose.

The government has also urged the commercial banks to take steps in line with the ones announced by the State regarding repayment and re-phasing of agricultural loans. The collectors have been ordered to convene a meeting with bankers at the district level.

In a bid to provide employment opportunities to the farmers of the drought affected areas, the Panchayatiraj department has been ordered to identify places in three days where big ponds can be dug under MGNREGA. Moreover, it has been decided to increase the mandays by 50 days over and above the Centre-stipulated 150 days. Furthermore, a 30% hike in wages will be given to the beneficiaries in form of drought allowance. This will enable a beneficiary to earn more than Rs 30,000 and the State government will bear the burden of these additional changes.

The chief minister has also ordered to constitute a team comprising of Revenue and Police officials to keep a strict vigil on the money lenders and their activities. The team will take required action against errant lenders if necessary and will a submit a report to the Home department. The collectors and SPs of the drought affected areas have been ordered to investigate all the suicides in their respective areas and submit a report within 24 areas.