Ministers failed to gauge drought impact: Kodandaram
Telangana Joint Action Committee Chairman Prof. M Kodandaram has expressed his agony over pathetic conditions of farmers in drought-hit district. He is particularly angry at the Ministers, who have hailed from the drought-affected district, for failing to rise to the occasion and provide succour to the people.
Telangana Joint Action Committee Chairman Prof. M Kodandaram has expressed his agony over pathetic conditions of farmers in drought-hit district. He is particularly angry at the Ministers, who have hailed from the drought-affected district, for failing to rise to the occasion and provide succour to the people. Following are the excerpts from an exclusive interview given by Kodandaram during his visit to Adilabad district to study conditions in this drought-hit district:
Q: What are your observations?
Kodandaram: The drought is so severe and the farmers are facing difficulties. They have been seeking support to wriggle out of the difficulties. They questioned why the government chose not to declare the district as drought-hit in spite of dire conditions. Tanks, ponds and streams that are lifeline to people dried up.
Groundwater table depleted. Farmers recall that such a severe drought was experienced only in 1971-72. They are worried at non-availability of drinking water. The crops withered away. Women complained of non-availability of NREGs works.
Q: What drought relief measures you think the government should take?
Kodandaram: The government should immediately declare the district as drought-hit. The rainfall deficiency in Boath was 33 per cent. If the rainfall recorded was only 20 per cent, the district is fit to be declared as drought-affected. If the government is to declare the district as drought-hit, it has to reschedule crop loans, extend input subsidy, supply fodder and provide midday meals.
There is scope for the government to take steps to provide employment to those who have been thrown out of work due to drought. Our legitimate demand is to declare the district as drought-hit.
Q: Do you think that the Ministers and officials have failed to come to the rescue of the people?
Kodandaram: It is beyond doubt. It is a failure. Ministers failed to recognise the drought impact. Severe injustice has been done to the people by not declaring the district as drought-hit despite the fact that there are all parameters to declare the district as drought-hit. The farmers have blamed the Ministers on this score and I am at a loss to understand why the drought in the district was ignored.
Q: While the people are reeling under drought, the State government has not been clearing the bills for NREGS works. As a result workers are facing problems. Will you take this to the notice of the government?
Kodandaram: We will meet the district Collector for resolution of the problem. For want of clearing the bills, the workers are facing lot of problems. Pressure would be mounted on officials. The issue will be taken to the notice of the NREGS Commissioner. We will meet the Revenue officials and request the Ministers concerned to come to the rescue of the people.
Q: What suggestions will you give to the government on execution of irrigation projects, including Pranahita-Chevella Lift Irrigation Project, which are progressing at a snail’s pace?
Kodandaram: Completing the projects offers permanent solution. Construction of anicuts across Godavari is one of the solutions. Water flowing waste from streams and ponds should be diverted to tanks, so that people can get water for irrigation and drinking. In Boath town, water is difficult to find at a depth of even 300 feet.
Farmers have been demanding that the government complete the pending projects as early as possible and come to their rescue. Execution of small projects on streams and canals will help solve the drinking water and irrigation problem to an extent.
Q: What is the motive behind the formation of Rythu JAC now instead of doing so during the movement for Telangana State?
Kodandaram: We have tried to form it during the movement for Telangana but it did not work out. Mobilising farmers across the country as part of the Rythu JAC would be a welcome development. All Rythu JACs at district and State level should come on to a common platform.
Formation of Rythu JAC as an apolitical outfit and sharing a common platform will go a long way in solving the farmers’ problems. This will help farmers lead a dignified life. Rural people, who constitute 60 per cent of the population, have a right to stake a claim for allotment of eight per cent of budget funds for them.
Q: Will the TJAC launch agitation against shifting of Tribal University?
Kodandaram: Decision has not yet been taken on the issue. Local JAC leaders will prepare an action plan.