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India: Supreme Court orders govt to respond to drought

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Jun 2016

The Supreme Court has directed the central government to consider drought as a disaster and constitute a national response force along with a consolidated fund within six months to deal with the severe drought conditions currently afflicting the country.
 
   The industry body, The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India, has estimated that the cost to the economy has hit INR6,500 billion (US$97 billion) because of the drought.
 
   The Supreme Court issued the directive last month. It also ordered the government to implement the provisions of Disaster Management Act and fix a time limit for declaration of drought on scientific grounds. It asked the government to revise the drought management manual – published in 2009 – to provide effective relief to calamity-hit farmers.
 
   In a scathing 53-page verdict, the top court reproached the central government for its failure to ready the national disaster management plan even after 10 years of the Disaster Management Act coming into force.
 
   “Ad hoc measures and knee-jerk reactions are the order of the day and will continue to be so until the provisions of the Disaster Management Act are faithfully implemented… risk assessment and risk management also appear to have little or no priority as far as the Union of India and the state governments are concerned,” the Indian Express reported, citing statements by the bench. 
 
   A study estimated that 330 million people across 256 districts in 10 states will be hit by drought this year. This means that 25% of the population is at risk.
 
   The Court was hearing a petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, a non-governmental organisation, claiming that not enough attention was given to a drought that was afflicting several states. The allegation was that the central government was reluctant to release funds to alleviate the impact of the drought.
 
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