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Bihar sends drought SOS to Centre

Patna, July 23: With Bihar receiving 50 to 60 per cent less rainfall in 2009, the possibility of a drought is intensifying in the state.

Under pressure from the Opposition and farmers’ groups to initiate measures, the government has now sent an SOS to the Centre seeking financial and material aid to tide over the crisis.

While the demand for Rs 14,800 crore for the rehabilitation and re-building of north Bihar villages and towns devastated by the Kosi floods still remains pending with the Centre, chief minister Nitish Kumar has now demanded another package worth Rs 9,000 crore for dealing with the drought situation.

Nitish Kumar has also decided to write to the Union ministers of energy and power demanding that a Centre team be sent to assess the situation and follow it up with a package to deal with the situation.

He has demanded that the Centre supply 300MW extra power in addition to its 1500MW quota. The government plans to set up 4.64 lakh tube wells across rural areas to facilitate irrigation of Kharif crops taking a hit due to scant rainfall.

Except Purnea that recorded a decent amount of rainfall, 37 districts have received 50 to 60 per cent less rainfall, according to weather office experts. The state may suffer a famine-like situation if rains continue to play truant in the next week.

The weather office, however, predicted today that most parts of the state should receive substantial rainfall from July 25 onwards.

Farmers so far have failed to plant paddy saplings in 70 per cent of the state’s farmlands because of the lack of water, according to an estimate of the agriculture department. Department sources said that the state would require at least Rs 320 crore as subsidy on diesel prices to operate pumping sets if the dry season prolongs.

Government officials are hopeful of a munificent package as the Union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, recently admitted that Bihar was heading for a drought-like situation this year in the Lok Sabha.

The chief minister has appealed to all parties to stay united in their demand for the Centre package.

However, RJD and a section of the farmers’ bodies have described the government’s action as a knee-jerk reaction. “Our farming is dependent on monsoon. Why has the government not thought of a permanent measure to tackle such a?” said RJD general secretary Ramkripal Yadav.

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