As soaring mercury levels leave drought-prone States in a parched condition, the Supreme Court on Wednesday turned the heat on the Centre for not releasing sufficient funds to these States for employment generation under the MGNREGS.
A Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur said there was no point anymore in denying that areas like Bundelkhand and Marathwada were not drought-affected. It asked the Centre to pull its socks up as the need for relief was now and immediate.
The Bench was hearing a PIL plea filed by Swaraj Abhiyan to treat the situation as a calamity and provide guidelines for the effective implementation of the National Food Security Act, MGNREGS and basic water supply to drought-hit States.
“Temperature is soaring. There is no drinking water, there is nothing there,” the Bench observed.
The court said that unless the Centre allocated funds, the States would remain helpless onlookers unable to fully implement schemes like MGNREGS.
The court pointed out that in many drought-affected States the number of workdays under the scheme had shrunk from 100 to 48 days.
It noted that the desert State of Rajasthan and 256 villages in Gujarat had declared drought.
In response, Additional Solicitor-General Pinky Anand submitted that the Centre would release over Rs. 7,500 crore towards wage dues under the MGNREGS.
“We are not targeting anybody. We are not targeting the officials. We are just trying to help the people,” the apex court explained.
The petition listed Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana and Chhattisgarh as drought-hit.
It had sought the court to examine the rainfall data in these States for the purpose of declaring drought-affected areas, districts and taluks. The petition asked the court to intervene to find out about the implementation of the National Food Security Act of 2013 and the availability of food grains, rice, dal, edible oil, eggs and milk for children, etc, in these areas.