By Special Correspondent
The Hindu, August 22, 2010
Chief Minister outlines three tasks, on a tour of drought-hit areas
West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, now on a tour of the State's drought-hit areas, has said that the prime task before the government was to save whatever crop had been sown in the 11 districts where cultivation had been badly affected by the errant monsoon. Protecting livelihoods was also very important, he said.
“Our first task now is to save whatever crop has already been cultivated by the farmers in these districts. We have talked to our people in charge of minor irrigation projects and also told people in the State power utilities that we must ensure that power supply remains intact so that minor irrigation facilities can be harnessed to save the little crop that the farmers have been able to cultivate.” The State has already sanctioned Rs. 50 crores towards the repair of existing deep tubewells and digging of new ones.
The Chief Minister, who commenced his tour of the drought-affected districts with Bardhaman, held meetings with district magistrates and panchayat functionaries from of the districts of Bardhaman, Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia and Hooghly.
He said that the second task was to take up early cropping of the winter crop rabi, in areas where sowing has been low. “Three types of alternate crops could be taken up. These were maize, oilseeds and dal (pulses),” he said.
A Central team of agro-scientists is to arrive shortly to conduct soil-tests and distribute seeds of alternate crops in the drought-hit districts. This followed a letter written by Mr. Bhattacharjee in this regard to the Union Agriculture Minister this week.
Mr. Bhattacharjee said that the third task was to create jobs under the 100 days' job scheme to protect the farmers' livelihoods. He said that while in Purulia only 6.5 per cent of the normal acreage has been cultivated, in the cases of two other arid districts – Birbhum and Bankura — the figure was around 33 per cent. The rains have been kinder to Hooghly and Bardhaman, where the deficiency was about 25 per cent. Of the 43 lakh hectares the State planned to cultivate during this season, cultivation on 11 lakh has become uncertain due to adverse weather condition, according to Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta.
Mr. Bhattacharjee was also scheduled to tour Nadia, another affected district where he would take stock of the neighbouring districts of Murshidabad and then Malda. On Sunday, he is slated to go to Purbo Medinipur, from where he will monitor Paschim Medinipur, and the two remaining districts of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas.