New Delhi/Nagpur: The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a slew of directions to address the drought situation in the country, which could provide clarity on how and when droughts are declared.
A bench comprising justices Madan B. Lokur and N.V. Ramana asked the government to implement provisions of the National Disaster Management Act and ensure that a national policy for drought is framed under it.
The court said that the drought management manual needed to be revised to reflect key indicators, and sought a mandated time limit for declaring drought and possible factors that could indicate drought.
A standardized nomenclature will also be required, the court said.
The court also had certain findings regarding Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana, details of which will be clear once the verdict comes in the public domain.
The chief secretaries of Bihar and Haryana also got directions regarding the prevailing conditions of drought in their states. The chief secretaries of drought hit states were also told to meet with the Union agriculture secretary to asses the situation.
The case came to the apex court by way of a public interest litigation filed by non- profit Swaraj Abhiyan, which asked the court to intervene in the prevailing drought situation in the country and direct the Centre and state governments to implement employment and food security schemes.
The petition also sought a standard policy for declaring drought, timely disbursement of crop loans, drought compensation, help in procurement of subsidized cattle fodder and formulation of an integrated water policy to prepare for future droughts.
The court on Wednesday said that this was the first part of its directions. The rest are expected over the course of the week.
India is facing one of its worst agrarian crisis with back-to-back deficient monsoon. The 2015 southwest monsoon,which irrigates over half of India’s crop area, recorded a 14% deficit, while the year before saw a 12% deficit. According to the Centre, 266 districts in 11 states have been declared drought-hit. A total of 330 million people in 10 states are affected by drought. The government did not give data for one state.
In March, the agriculture ministry told Parliament that 2,806 farmers had committed suicide in 2015 due to “agrarian reasons”.