New Delhi (PTI): Government today ruled out any change in norms till 2015 for providing relief in the cases of drought, rejecting demands from various members in the Rajya Sabha for enhancement of compensation for drought.
Replying to a Calling Attention Motion on the drought situation in Karnataka, Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat said the norms were fixed by the Norms Committee based on the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission.
"The Finance Commission is an independent organisation and even the Government of India has no interference...For changing the norms, we will have to wait till 2015," he said.
Rawat said a central team will visit drought-hit Karnataka again on May 13 to assess the current situation. This will be for the second time in five months that a central team will visit the state following demands for enhancement of compensation through an all-party memorandum given by state chief minister recently.
He dismissed allegations by the opposition about Centre "delaying" grant of compensation to the state and being "insensitive" to the situation and said the opposition was giving a "political flavour" to it.
Rawat said "Karnataka farmers' loss is India's loss" and claimed the Centre had initiated a number of steps to provide relief to drought-hit Karnataka, where both rabi and kharif crops had failed.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, the Opposition lashed out at the Centre for adopting a "callous and casual" approach towards drought-hit Karnataka and watching a "tamasha (show)" and sought an immediate interim relief of Rs 1,500 crore.
Initiating the discussion, M Venkiah Naidu (BJP) said, "The entire state is reeling under severe drought but Centre's behaviour is callous and casual...it is totally unmoved and insensitive...is it a tamasha?"
Dissatisfied with the reply of the Minister, BJP members led by Naidu walked out moments before it adjourned for lunch.
Naidu wondered as to what was the need for such a Centre which failed to address Karnataka's woes, saying the interim relief should be granted immediately as Karnataka's losses on account of drought are estimated at Rs 5,950 crore.
"It is very unfortunate...not a single grain has been given to the state," he said, adding this was despite the Centre claiming enough stock of foodgrains.
Asking the Centre if its approach was politically motivated, he said, parts of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh too were reeling under drought but the Centre was quiet.
He said an Inter Ministerial central team comprising members from Ministries of Rural Development, Power, Drinking Water and Sanitation among others was constituted on November 30, 2011 and it visited the state from December 15 to 18.
He said the state government had sought Rs 2,605 crore while Agriculture Ministry is reassessing the losses.
Rawat also did not accede to the demand raised by Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and some others for releasing foodgrains for drought-hit Karnataka that were rotting in Government godowns.
M S Swaminathan (Nom) demanded that a long-term plan to tackle the situation arising out of drought be evolved. He suggested a new kind of fodder for drought period, devising different methods for creating fodder banks and development of seed reserves, in addition to immediate measures for relief and rehabilitation.
Slamming the UPA government for "faulty agriculture policies", Tapan Kumar Sen (CPI-M) said agriculture was in deep crisis and more than two crore Karnataka farmers were suffering due to drought.