11/05/2016 7:28 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Drought Woe: ‘Ostrich-Like Attitude A Pity', SC Tells States

An indian boy follows a herd of goat on a parched water pond in Kaushambi, nearly 25 kms from Allahabad, India, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Much of India is reeling under a weeks long heat wave and severe drought conditions that have decimated crops, killed livestock and left at least 330 million Indians without enough water for their daily needs. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL) related to the extreme drought situation in at least ten states in the country, the supreme court came down heavily on the state governments and criticised them for their ostrich-like attitude.

The country’s apex court observed that while Gujarat was late in declaring the drought situation, Bihar and Haryana continue to be in the denial mode.

"An ostrich-like attitude is a pity, particularly since the persons affected by a possible drought-like situation usually belong to the most vulnerable sections of society," the supreme court said.

Calling for a thorough review of the drought manual to ensure that such situations are declared without any delay, the court asked the central government to float a disaster mitigation fund and form a disaster mitigation force. The court also asked the state governments to consult the Union Agriculture Ministry within a week to review the situation

Emphasising on the gravity of the situation the apex court criticised the states for being silent even as a major part of its population continues to reel under extreme drought.

"The sound of silence coming from these States subjects the vulnerable to further distress... if a state government maintains an ostrich-like attitude, a disaster requires a far more proactive and nuanced response from the Union of India," it said.

According to an NDTV report, the judgement, quoting freedom fighter Lokmanya Tilak, said the problem was not a lack of resources or capability, but the lack of will.

The court said the states were hesitant in acknowledging the drought and therefore did not reveal the true picture of the conditions.

While about a quarter of India’s population is hit by severe drought, the country’s weatherman’s forecast of a better-than-average monsoon this year is what is keeping hope alive for many.

Seeking consensus on issues like inter-linking of rivers, the government on Tuesday said in the Lok Sabha that the drought has affected over 1.5 lakh villages.

The House saw a discussion on the drought, water-scarcity and inter-linking of rivers, with members voicing concern over the worsening situation and demanding waiver of loans of farmers. The members also emphasised the need for working on war-footing to ensure that people do not suffer for want of drinking water.

Replying to the debate amid din and repeated disruptions by Congress members, Rural Development Minister Birender Singh said 313 districts, 1,58,205 villages and 4,44,280 dwellings in the country have been hit by drought.

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