New Delhi, Apr 19: The Centre today faced tough questions on its handling of drought-like situation in the country, with the Supreme Court asking whether it was not its responsibility to warn that states that such a scenario was likely to prevail in the near future.
It also chided Gujarat for not filing an affidavit on the matter, saying "just because you're Gujarat doesn't mean you can do whatever you like."
"It is the responsibility of the Centre to inform and warn that these (drought-affected) states will receive less rainfall.
"If you are told that 96 per cent is crop sown in a particular area of the state but you receive information of scanty rainfall, don't just tell them that everything is right and think there is possibility of Centre telling states about a possible drought," a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur said.
The remark by the bench, also comprising Justice N V Ramana came as Additional Solicitor General PA Narasimha, submitted that 256 districts in 10 states were declared as drought-affected.
He clarified that the declaration of a particular area as drought-affected does not mean that it was affecting the entire population of that area as all are not farmers or engaged in agriculture related occupation.
The law officer said the total population in such areas may be 33 crore but "the actual number of people affected by drought is likely to be less than what is reflected in gross population figures of such drought affected districts."
The apex court said the Centre should adopt modern technology to assess drought situation in states instead of following "eye estimation" (cursory survey of farms) method which is not even mentioned in Manual for Drought Management.
The court directed the Centre to apprise it how many households in drought-hit areas got 150 days employment under MNREGA and asked it to submit a compilation of advisories on drought. It also took Gujarat government to task for submitting note instead of an affidavit on the drought situation and directed it to file it stating details of rainfall data.
"Why have you not filed affidavit? Don't take things so lightly, just because you're Gujarat doesn't mean you can do whatever you like," the bench observed while asking it to submit the document by April 21.