Hearing PIL seeking drought relief, SC pulls up Govts

RSTV Bureau
Karad: Villagers walk on the dry bed of Mervewadi lake in Karad, Maharashtra on Wednesday. The lake supplies drinking water to five villages.  Photo - PTI

Karad: Villagers walk on the dry bed of Mervewadi lake in Karad, Maharashtra on Wednesday. The lake supplies drinking water to five villages.
Photo – PTI

The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up both the Centre and State governments ordering to release all the outstanding and necessary funds for MNREGA scheme. The top court, while announcing its three-part judgement on a PIL raising concern over drought, also directed to pay compensation for delayed wages to the farmers in drought- affected areas.

Earlier on Wednesday, SC had asked the Centre to constitute within six months a National Disaster Response Force with its own regular specialist cadre.

“Government can’t hide behind a smokescreen for lack of finances,” the court said.

The bench comprising Justices MB Lokur and NV Ramana directed the States to appoint commissioners for effective implementation of provisions of National Food Security Act and strengthening of public distribution system especially in drought-hit areas.

The bench also directed the government to set up Central Employment Guarantee Council as envisaged in the statute and to ensure compensation for crop loss in such areas.

Drought-Pictures-PTIThe top court also pulled up the state governments for not doing enough.

“States cannot say they will not follow the law enacted by Parliament and rule of law binds everyone including the States,” the bench said directing that mid-day meal should be continued throughout the summer season in drought-affected areas.

The court will now take the matter again on August 1.

The court had on May 11 had passed a slew of directions on the issue of tackling a drought-like situation. It even went on to say if state governments maintain an “ostrich-like attitude” towards disasters like drought then the Centre cannot wash off its hands from the constitutional responsibility as the “buck stops” with it in matters concerning common people.

The apex court was especially scathing on the states of Gujarat, Bihar and Haryana, observing that the government is “hesitant to even acknowledge, let alone address, a possible drought-like situation or a drought by not disclosing full facts about the prevailing conditions in these states.”

The apex court, which had noted that around one-fourth of the total population of the country was affected by drought- like situation, had also directed the Centre to establish a National Disaster Mitigation Fund within three months.

The PIL filed by the NGO Swaraj Abhiyan, which had alleged that parts of 12 states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh were hit by drought and the authorities were not providing adequate relief.

(With inputs from the PTI)