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Nitish prod on drought

Nitish Kumar on Wednesday hinted the government would declare drought because of 28 per cent deficit rainfall in Bihar.

Speaking at a consultation workshop, the former chief minister said: “Going by the present rainfall situation, it seems that the government will have to declare the state as drought hit.”

Most districts could be declared drought-hit, as Bihar has received 405.1mm rainfall till Tuesday. The normal figure at this time of the year is 561.5mm. So, the deficiency is around 28 per cent.

Meteorological drought is declared in a state when the precipitation deficiency is 30 per cent or above. State governments are free to take other factors such as local distribution of rainfall into account for declaring drought, though.

Bihar declared drought last year as well as in 2010. Till September 11, 2013, Bihar had received 25 per cent deficit rainfall. So, drought was declared in 33 districts on September 18. In 2010, 28 districts were declared drought-hit on August 4, while the remaining nine districts were included in the list on August 15.

Nitish said it looked like this year would go the same way. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the workshop on “A food secure Bihar: challenges and way forward”. The event was organised by the International Food Policy Research Institute and AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences.

Nitish, the chief guest, admitted to teething problems in the implementation of the Food Security Act since February when it was formally launched in Bihar.

To ensure effective implementation though, he said, the government has invested Rs 400 crore to strengthen the public distribution system. He, however, called faulty the list of food security act beneficiaries prepared on the basis of the socio-economic and caste census. He advocated the need for a separate survey.

Development economist Jean Drèze, who was in the audience, countered Nitish’s stance though.

A visiting professor at Ranchi University’s economics department, he told The Telegraph on the sidelines: “The list of beneficiaries is genuine, transparent and reliable… Separate survey is not required.” Drèze was supposed to speak at the workshop’s second session. An honorary professor at the Delhi School of Economics, he has also been a member of the National Advisory Council that drafted the Food Security Bill.


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