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Drought sop to humour allies

Ranchi, Aug. 31: The Cabinet declared “early season drought” in the entire state today in a bid to keep alliance partners in good humour, overruling a finance department objection to a proposal moved by the disaster management department.

Under the decision, farmers will be given subsidies to the tune of Rs 3,000 per hectare to fight the apparent water scarcity. The disaster management department’s proposal that was turned down cited two parameters, rainfall and cop coverage, that had improved in July-August to prevent early declaration of drought.

But, cabinet coordination department principal secretary N.N. Pandey justified the government’s decision and pointed out that there were four parameters for declaring drought in a particular area “if rainfall was at least 50 per cent less than the average annual rainfall, if crop sowing was at least 50 per cent less than the set target, if the normalised difference vegetation index value was less than 4 per cent and if the normalised difference water index value was less than 50 per cent”.

At least three such parameters ought to be fulfilled before declaring an area drought-hit. Further, assessments ought to be made in three stages — early season, when sowing is being done; mid season, when crops grow up; and final, when harvest is over.

“Till July-end Jharkhand fulfilled three such conditions. Normalised difference vegetation index value was only 0.21 per cent; normalised difference water index value was 37.37 per cent; and overall kharif crop sowing was 36.51 per cent while paddy cultivation was 29.95 per cent,” he added.

The finance department, however, wanted latest rainfall data to be considered before taking a final decision. An early drought is normally declared by July-end. Drought may be declared mid-season in September or else a late announcement by November-end, based on crop-cutting data.

A senior government official admitted that the situation did not warrant a declaration of “early season drought” in the entire state. But, exclusion of any district would have angered one or other alliance partner which ultimately dictated the final call.

“Also, it gives an excuse to the state government to seek more funds from the Centre. But given the poor delivery mechanism in the state, it is unlikely that the farmers will benefit from any relief package,” he pointed out.

Energy policy

The cabinet also approved an energy policy aiming to supply electricity to every household by 2014 and facilitate 1,000 MW per capita power consumption by 2017.

Improving production and reducing transmission and distribution losses, setting up eco-friendly generation units, protection of consumer rights, exemption for electricity duty as per provisions of the industrial policy, et al, are among its other salient features.

Professional tax

The regulation for levying professional tax was also approved. It is expected to fetch additional revenue to the tune of Rs 50 crore per annum.

Reinstated

Services of 19 officers who had been recruited through the second civil services exam conducted by JPSC, but later dismissed, were reinstated on the orders of the apex court.


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