Bhubanewsar CC Meet

On Drought In Orissa

THE Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) now in session at Bhubaneswar, expresses its deep concern at the severe drought which is affecting many parts of Orissa. Shortage of rainfall has led to drought affecting 200 out of the 314 blocks in the state. A famine-like situation has emerged in the western parts of Orissa. The severity of the drought can be gauged from the fact that out of the cultivable paddy land of one crore acres, 25 lakh acres have recorded crop failure. In more than three lakh hectares, ploughing could not be carried out. It is estimated that about 14 lakh tonnes of paddy, amounting to Rs.700 crore, has been damaged.

Due to the crop failure caused by drought and the apathy of the state government machinery, lakhs of people, mainly from Bolangir, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi and Naupada have migrated in search of food, water and employment. There is acute shortage of drinking water. Deaths due to starvation and malnutrition have been recorded since August 2000 itself. Despite the adverse warning about the paucity of rainfall, the state government did not take any contingency measures.

The Central Committee of the CPI(M) noted with dismay that in spite of the alarming reports of the central team which had visited the state, the central government has failed to respond in any serious manner.

The Central Committee noted that Orissa is frequently subjected to natural disasters. The super-cyclone in 1999 was succeeded by drought, and this alternative cycle has caused great suffering to the people. There is no comprehensive scheme for irrigation, despite the huge World Bank loan being taken for the purpose. On the other hand, the irrigation tax has been increased by two and a half times.

The BJP-led government at the centre has adopted a callous attitude to the drought affecting Orissa and some other states. With the FCI godowns overflowing with more than four crore tonnes of foodgrains, including in Orissa, the central government has not thought fit to release free foodgrains for the drought-affected people. The issue price of rice and wheat, even for people living below the poverty line, is so high, that the drought-affected people cannot afford to buy foodgrains.

The Central Committee of the CPI(M) demands that the central government and the state government immediately:

1. Release foodgrains, free of cost, to be distributed among the drought affected people.
2. The central government, in coordination with the state government, immediately organize food-for-work programmes in drought-affected areas.
3. Provision of drinking water be made on a war footing.
4. Waiving of all agriculture-linked loans for the poor and small farmers in the drought-affected areas be made and implementation of crop insurance schemes undertaken.

The Central Committee demands that the state government immediately act to see that the above demands are accepted and implemented. It is incumbent upon the state government to chalk out a comprehensive plan for tackling the problems of floods and droughts in the state.