Govt has to compensate drought-hit farmers for delayed payment: SC

New Delhi, May 13: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to compensate farmers for delayed payment and crop loss, days after asking the government to revise its seven-year-old guidebook on droughts.
The court was hearing a petition by NGO Swaraj Abhiyan seeking standard guidelines for declaring a drought, timely disbursement of crop loans, compensation and relief packages.
In the second part of its drought verdict, it also directed that mid-day meal in schools should be given throughout summer in drought-affected areas and asked states to appoint food commissioners to oversee effective implementation of Public Distribution System.
“The Centre should release outstanding funds for MNREGA,” the top court said.
It asked for a status report from the Centre on steps taken to implement its orders and said it will take up the case on August 1 to monitor whether the central government and the states are implementing its directions.

On Tuesday, the court had directed the agriculture secretary to sit with the chief secretaries of the three states within a week to review whether there was a drought-like situation and if so persuade them to declare it.
The court had fixed December 31 as the deadline for the Centre to update the manual, which should also take into account humanitarian factors such as migration, suicides, distress and the plight of women and children.
The SC had said that the Union government could not wash its hands of its constitutional responsibility if the states maintained an “ostrich-like attitude” in declaring a rural crisis.
The country is facing the second straight year of drought because of a poor monsoon and as many as 10 states, including Maharashtra and Karnataka, have declared drought in the 2015-16 crop year between July and June.
The central government released more than Rs. 12,000 crore assistance to these states to help them address problems including drinking water and fodder shortage.

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