India gov’t says 330-M people affected by drought

NEW DELHI — The Indian government told its apex court that a total of 330 million people in the country were affected by an ongoing drought, officials said Wednesday.

The Supreme Court was informed by additional solicitor general P A Narasimha that the affected population lives in 256 districts spread over 12 states across the country.

The government presented the figures to the court in a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking relief to farmers of drought-hit states of India.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court pulled up the federal government for failing to adequately help drought-hit states.

The PIL was filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, a newly-formed political organization in India. The party was founded last year by Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, the expelled leaders from Aam Aadmi Party.

Swaraj Abhiyan is highlighting the plight of farmers hit by drought.

The drought-hit areas are facing shortage of drinking water and experience soaring temperatures.

The worst drought-hit region is Marathwada in Maharashtra, where officials say dams in the region are left with just three percent of water.

In its Latur district, about 470 km east of Mumbai city, the state’s capital, the ground water has dipped at an alarming level.

Local authorities have started ferrying water to the district in trains.

The police officials fearing violence over water have imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 (government order) as “precautionary” measure around water sources. The order prohibits assembly of more than four persons in public place.

Last week, Bombay high court directed organizers of Indian Premier League (IPL), a multi-billion-dollar cricketing tournament to shift matches from the drought-hit western state of Maharashtra to save water.

The court reprimanded Maharashtra’s cricket body (BCCI) for the apparent use of thousands of litres of water to prepare pitches for the matches at a time when large parts of the state were reeling under severe drought. It described the water usage in making pitches for the game as “criminal wastage”.

Two successive poor monsoons have triggered drought like situation in many Indian states, causing worries to farming community and pushed them to the wall.

This year the situation worsened owing to prevailing unrelenting heat in several states that so far has claimed over 100 deaths.

The day temperature hovers above 40 degrees Celsius.

Officials said the usual April rains have been delayed in the states under intense grip of heat, pushing mercury upwards.

Temperatures have risen unusually in the first week of April with several parts of the country recording deviations of more than 5°C.

Weather officials attribute the early onset of heat to after-effects of the weather phenomenon El Nino that caused poor monsoon last year.

Indian agriculture is mainly dependent on monsoons.

Temperatures have risen unusually in the first week of April in several parts of the India including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, parts of Odhisa, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, eastern Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. PNA/Xinhua/