The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drought-hit Naidu in Delhi

New Delhi, Oct. 4: Hi-tech Andhra Pradesh and its cybersavvy CEO Chandrababu Naidu are in distress.

Faced with unprecedented drought in 40 years, severe drinking water scarcity, power shortage, mounting unemployment and suicide by farmers, the chief minister rushed to Delhi today with a ministerial team to seek succour. As many as 89 more mandals fell into the drought grip this week, making it a total of 993 mandals spread across 23 districts.

Naidu called on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, finance minister Jaswant Singh and agriculture minister Ajit Singh with a demand of Rs 1,210 crore and 25 lakh tonnes of rice.

After meeting them, the chief minister hinted at tough measures to tide over the crisis, such as imposing power cuts. Asked if there was a proposal to freeze the dearness allowance and leave travel concession of government employees, Naidu said: “You write about it and we will consider.”

But sources in the Telugu Desam Party said he would not resort to such measures as it would make him unpopular among the government staff.

Naidu said he may “go in for reappropriation of budget” to ease the funds crunch. He also suggested to the Prime Minister the linking of 30-odd rivers like Ganga with Cauvery, to mitigate drought and flood conditions and solve the perennial inter-state water disputes. Vajpayee has appreciated the concept and said he would talk to the chief ministers to evolve a consensus, he said.

Although Andhra Pradesh is considered a “hi-tech” state, it has no disaster management or contingency plan on the lines of countries in the West.

As per the projections of the Planning Commission, per hectare governmental spending in the state is Rs 74, the second lowest among 20 states, the first being Rajasthan with Rs 34. Haryana spends Rs 1,500.

Naidu said, as per conservative estimates, “crops worth Rs 4,500 crore has been lost as of now. Farmers are in total distress. They borrowed money, invested and lost all. I requested the Centre to waive off interest on all loans irrespective of type borrowing or bank”.

The Prime Minister has assured Naidu that he would consider the demands. While sources said the Centre may at the most sanction foodgrains but no money, Naidu said the Union Cabinet would discuss the three components — waiver of loan, reschedule and offering fresh loans.

Admitting that Andhra Pradesh was in a sorry state of affairs, the chief minister outlined the following problems facing his government this year:

nSowing declined by 20 to 30 per cent, from a normal of 81.80 lakh hectare to 62.74 lakh hectare

nFoodgrain production dropped from an expected 108 lakh tonnes to 65 lakh tonnes

nOilseed production dropped from 20 lakh tonnes to 7.5 lakh tonnes

nMore than 70 per cent less rainfall in September. All irrigation projects, reservoirs choked due to lack of water

nAround 20-50 million power units loss per day

nIncrease in power consumption from 142 million units to 148 million

nEmployment generation pose a big challenge

nDrinking water and fodder development are grave problems

nRs 215 crore calamity fund exceeded, already Rs 240 crore released

Last year, Naidu had demanded Rs 810 crore as drought relief but the Centre did not oblige. Instead, 31.5 lakh tonnes of rice was given.

The state unit of the CPM recently submitted a memo to the governor inter alia saying that 498 farmers had committed suicide following the government’s failure to address their problems.

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