New Delhi/Patna, Sept. 19: Chief minister Nitish Kumar today landed in the national capital with a demand of a relief package of Rs 12,000 crore from the Centre.
A day after declaring 33 of Bihar’s 38 districts as drought-hit, Nitish, who met finance minister P. Chidambaram and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, said the state’s agrarian economy was totally paralysed because of the acute rainfall deficiency during the kharif season.
Nitish requested Chidambaram to send a central team to the state to analyse the ground situation and its implications on Bihar’s economy. “We are keeping a watch on the situation and if need be, a drought situation will be declared for the remaining districts as well. The situation in a large part of the state is grave and we need central assistance to overcome this,” the chief minister told reporters.
He said the state had already started offering diesel and seed subsidy to the farmers. “However, the situation is so grim that there may be shortage of drinking water and fodder for the cattle,” Nitish said.
The chief minister said while the state had broadly assessed that Rs 12,000 crore was required, the amount could be revised after the central team’s visit.
“In Bihar, the monsoon has been 37 per cent deficient so far and the crops are drying owing to lack of rains. We have told them (the Centre) about our needs. We have submitted a memorandum on the issue and expect them to send a team to the state to study the situation. I will also meet the Prime Minister on Friday and discuss the matter with him,” Nitish said.
Officials in the disaster management department in Patna said the memorandum in connection with the relief package was being prepared. “The relief package memorandum is being prepared and will take a week to be ready. The departments concerned have been contacted and they have been asked to chip in,” an official said.
Principal secretary, disaster management, Vyasji said based on the memorandum, a team from the Centre would visit Bihar. “The relief package will be ready soon. Once it is sent to the Centre, a team will visit the state to assess the situation,” he said.
Nitish will deliver a lecture, “The Idea of India”, on Friday at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi. He will be the first chief minister to deliver the annual lecture organised by the National Commission of Minorities.
Nitish’s aides say the invitation to the chief minister was extended at the behest of a “friendly Union government” which wants to promote him as the true champion of minorities in Bihar, a tag hitherto held by RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
By coincidence, both Lalu and Nitish went to Delhi today by the same flight. “But there was not even an exchange of greetings between the two as Laluji sat in the economy class and Nitish was in the executive class,” said a Nitish aide.
However, their verbal volleys were on through the day. At Patna airport, Lalu said the rainfall deficiency was owing to a “curse” that had befallen Bihar because Nitish had eaten biscuits during a solar eclipse in 2011.
Nitish, upon landing in Delhi, scoffed at the suggestion. “It’s astonishing that even in a grim situation like drought, he (Lalu Prasad) is trying to make the people laugh by talking about orthodoxy. This shows his seriousness about the issue,” the chief minister said.