Drought has hit 207 districts in nine states: Minister

New Delhi, Dec 11 (IANS) The government on Friday told parliament that 207 districts in nine states have been affected by drought, and that all farmers in the country would be given soil health cards by 2017.

Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh gave the information while replying to a Lok Sabha debate on the drought situation in the country, which was initiated by Congress member Jyotiraditya Scindia last week.

Congress members were not present in the house during the minister’s reply as they walked out earlier in the day to demand an apology from a Bharatiya Janata Party member over his “objectionable” remarks against their party leaders.

Radha Mohan Singh said it is wrong to assume that a state facing adverse conditions such as drought gets money only after the recommendations of an expert committee sent by the Centre.

“There is SDRF (State Disaster Response Fund) in which 75 percent contribution is from the central government,” he said.

Taking a dig at the previous UPA government over the crop insurance scheme, the minister said he was unable to understand “if it was working for the benefit of farmers or the companies”.

“There is delay in payments. We will remove the shortcomings. We have already reviewed the scheme,” Radha Mohan Singh said.

He said premium would be brought down and better use made of information technology.

Referring to the members’ concern over the minimum support price for grain and other commodities, Singh said he would form a committee to review the national policy on farmers.

The minister claimed that farmers have been caught in a web due to the policies pursued over the last six decades.

He said since most of land in India is not irrigated, the government had come out with Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana.

Radha Mohan Singh also urged the states to spend money allocated for agricultural purposes.

The minister said soil health cards would enable farmers to know about the condition of soil and take agricultural decisions accordingly.

The Modi government had given priority to issuance of soil health cards to about 13.5 crore farmers, costing Rs.568 crore.

He said it is for the first time that the government has decided to have buffer stocks of pulses.

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