One-fourth population, over 1 lakh villages drought-hit: Government

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New Delhi, May 10: Over one lakh villages in 313 districts of 13 states, sheltering roughly one-fourth of India's population, have been affected by drought and scarcity of drinking water, the Lok Sabha was informed on Tuesday.

Making a brief intervention during a general discussion under Rule 193, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said that going by statistics, it appeared that nearly 25 percent of the country's population was drought-hit.

One-fourth population, over 1 lakh villages drought-hit: Government.
The governments in Bihar and Haryana have so far not declared the two states drought-hit, the minister said.

"Even the Gujarat government has not declared the entire state as affected by drought. They are calling it drought only in some parts," Singh said amid repeated interruptions and slogan-shouting by Congress members.

The minister said all drought-hit states collectively have at their disposal a total of Rs.3,800 crore for relief, including central contribution of 50 percent.

"Of the dedicated drought funds of Rs.3,800 crore, the state governments can spend 25 percent independently and take all necessary steps to provide relief to the people," the minister said.

Earlier, Congress members sat in silence in the Lok Sabha well to protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comments at election rallies in Kerala and Tamil Nadu regarding Congress president Sonia Gandhi's "Italian connection" in the AgustaWestland chopper scam.

But as soon as the rural development minister stood up to make the brief intervention and answer queries raised by members, Congress parliamentarians started raising anti-government slogans.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the Congress members were preventing the house from discussing an important issue concerning the rural folks and farmers.

"This is being anti-farmers," he said, a remark countered amid the din by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.

When repeated plea from Hukum Singh, who was in the chair, did not calm down the agitating members, the minister said: "It's my right to make intervention and answer questions raised by members.

"I know the Congress people pretty well. If you do not allow me to answer, I will bring privilege motion against you all," said Birender Singh, who was earlier in the Congress but left to join the Bharatiya Janata Party on the eve of the 2014 parliamentary polls.

The minister also listed out steps taken to tackle the dry spell, adding "if we get cooperation from the states on the measures we are taking, in two years, people will certainly get relief".

Chandrakant Khaire (Shiv Sena), Aparupa Poddar (Trinamool Congress) and B. Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal) also spoke during the discussion that remained inconclusive.

IANS

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