SC Re­jects Cen­tre’s Stand That States Re­spon­si­ble for Deal­ing With Drought

Modi govt says 33 cr peo­ple af­fected; banks to resched­ule loans

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tues­day re­jected the Naren­dra Modi govern­ment’s stand that states were re­spon­si­ble for deal­ing with drought in their ter­ri­to­ries and that its role was re­stricted to grant­ing funds. The Cen­tre’s re­spon­si­bil­ity doesn’t end with pro­vid­ing funds, the court said, adding that it was duty-bound to get the states to act, even as the govern­ment said the drought has so far af­fected 33 crore peo­ple — about a quar­ter of the country’s pop­u­la­tion. The govern­ment has sanc­tioned fund­stoguar­an­teem­i­ni­mum100­days of work in drought-hit ar­eas and ac­ti­vat­ed­statu­to­ryscheme­toen­sure­food se­cu­rity and crop loss com­pen­sa­tion, Ad­di­tional So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral PS Narasimha told the court. Banks will resched­ule loans in the af­fected ar­eas, pro­vided the debtor had not de­faulted on any of his pay­ments, he said. But the govern­ment’s lawyer said it was the state’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­clare drought on the ba­sis of in­dices such as a short­fall in rain­fall, area un­der crop sow­ing, veg­e­ta­tion and mois­ture con­tent. Mit­i­gat­ing mea­sures such as en­sur­ing em­ploy­ment forthe­drought-af­fectedan­dad­e­quate food se­cu­rity are also the state’s re- SC BENCH TO GOVERN­MENT spon­si­bil­ity, he ar­gued. The bench of Jus­tices Madan B Lokur and NV Ra­mana, hear­ing a pe­ti­tion filed by Yo­gen­dra Ya­dav’s NGO Swaraj Ab­hi­gyan, didn’t agree with the stand that the Cen­tre had ful­filled its obli­ga­tions. It’s not just about money, the court said. “The cen­tral govern­ment has tech­nol­ogy (such as satel­lite im­agery) at its dis­posal. Can you not say on the ba­sis of that in­for­ma­tion that you (any state) are headed for trou­ble,” the bench said. “You are also un­der a duty to say that every­thing is not alright, please take re­me­dial mea­sures. If the state does not do so, you have re­course to other sec- tions of the Con­sti­tu­tion.” The ASG said 254 dis­tricts were af­fected by the cur­rent spell of drought. The data he had didn’t in­clude Gu­jarat, but all other drought-hit states:Bi­har,Haryana,Ma­ha­rash­tra, Kar nataka, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ra­jasthan, Ut­tar Pradesh, Te­lan­gana,AndhraPradesh,Odisha, Ch­hat­tis­garh and Jhark­hand. The court stressed on the need to start early in deal­ing with drought, say­ing the process should be­gin soon af­ter the mon­soon if the rains were less. “Mit­i­gat­ing ef­forts must start in July-Au­gust.No­pointif it­doneafter,” Jus­tice Lokur ob­served. “Gu­jarat de­clared drought only two weeks ago. You must have had in­for­ma­tion that things were not fine,” the judge said. He had some harsh words for the Gu­jarat­gov­ern­ment,whichtheNGO lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, charged had misled the court along with Bi­har and Haryana on the ac­tual drought sit­u­a­tion in their ter­ri­to­ries. “Don’t think you can take things lightly be­cause you are Gu­jarat,” Jus­tice Lokur said. “Don’t think you can get away by do­ing any­thing just be­cause you are Gu­jarat,” he said. “May be you don’t want us to see the in­for­ma­tion.” The bench said, as it had not re­ceived af­fi­davits from the state govern­ment on the data on rain­fall and other in­dices which would re­veal the ex­tent of drought in the state. The ar­gu­ments will re­sume next Tues­day.

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