New Delhi: Claiming that the Centre has no "serious" plan in place to tackle drought, Communist Party of India on Wednesday demanded that the government convene an all-party meeting to discuss the problem and figure out ways to combat it.
Claiming "no such" crisis situation had arisen in the past 25 years, the party called for immediate measures like arrangement for supply of drinking water in parched regions, drought pension of Rs 3,000 per month per head to agricultural workers and free food to those affected.
"We express concern that no serious plan has been chalked out by the central government till now to face this grave situation. We urge upon the Prime Minister to call an all-party meet to discuss the drought situation and chalk out plan," CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said.
Reddy said some states have witnessed drought situation for three consecutive years now and demanded urgent measures be taken to ensure supply of drinking water in dry regions including Maharashtra's Marathwada.
He said the current water crisis due to the impact of 'El Nino' in the Pacific Ocean is seen hurting standing crops "very clearly".
"Hundreds of people have died due to heat wave in the last few days. No such situation has been seen in last 25 years. The temperature is around 42 degrees Celsius," Reddy said.
He said CPI will observe 'All India Save Farmer-Save Water-Save Livestock Day' on 5 May and 6 May to press for providing drinking water to drought-hit areas through water train, arranging fodder for cattle and disbursing compensation to the affected farmers.
He insisted on undertaking special MGNREGA programmes for drinking water. Water tank repairs should be undertaken on "war-footing", he said.
Reddy underscored the need for creating small water bodies to save rainwater and asked central and state governments to take initiatives to engage people in the task.
He demanded that the government "stop" cold drinks companies from operating as the private players use deep bore submersible pumps to fetch water and thereby cause a drop in groundwater table.
"The government must announce drought pensions of Rs 3,000 each to agriculture labourer, peasants and fishermen for next three months. School and college fees of students from drought-hit areas should be waived and free food and books should be arranged for," he said.