New Delhi: The government on Wednesday announced various relief measures for drought-hit areas of the country that includes increasing the number of guaranteed work days under MGNREGA to 150 days from 100 days and reducing interest rates on rescheduled crop loans to 7 per cent for this fiscal.
Announcing these measures, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the government expects fall in production of coarse cereals and pulses in Kharif (summer) season although the monsoon deficiency has now come down to 8 per cent.
Pawar was briefing the media about the decisions taken by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on drought, headed by him, on Tuesday for providing relief in the drought-hit areas.
Four states -- Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan -- have declared drought in more than 390 taluks.
"One of the demands made by most of the states, where drought has been declared, was that the MGNREGA jobs provided for 100 days should be increased by 50 days. The decision was taken yesterday to provide additional 50 mandays in drought-affected areas. So, 150 MGNREGA jobs will be provided," Pawar said.
Under MGNREGA scheme, the government assures 100 days of work every year to each household in rural areas. The Centre has provided Rs 33,000 crore to implement the scheme this fiscal, as against Rs 31,000 crore in 2011-12.
"We have decided to make available interest rate at 7 per cent on crop loans, which are rescheduled, instead of 12 per cent in drought-hit areas for this fiscal," he added.
During agrarian crisis, crop loans get converted into term loans for a longer period of three years but at a higher interest rate of 12 per cent.
That apart, Pawar said the Centre and state would provide interest subvention to the tune of Rs 261 crore under a NABARD scheme to save horticulture crops in drought-hit areas.