Don’t repeat mistakes committed last year: SC to Centre on drought

New Delhi: “Don’t dig the well when the house is on fire,” the Supreme Court on Wednesday observed as it warned the Centre of not repeating last year’s “mistakes” in tackling the drought situation in various parts of the country this time.

Asking the government to be ready with relief measures for drought in certain parts of country this year, the apex court said, “we are concerned about the approach. You should change your mindset. Don’t repeat last year’s mistake of not declaring drought on time. Don’t dig the well when the house is on fire.”

The observation by a bench of Justices M B Lokur and N V Ramana came when it was pointed out that several districts in country have had deficient rainfall and a situation like last year may emerge again which may catch the government napping.

Additional Solicitor General P S Narsimha, appearing for the Union government, said, “it is wrong to say that Centre is not dealing with the drought-like situation. The process is going on as directed by the court. We are revising our drought manual as per suggestions and recommendations made by experts and other bodies.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO ‘Swaraj Abhiyan’, pointed out that several districts have reported deficient rainfall as per the data of the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

To this, the bench told the ASG that by now the Centre must have got an idea of rainfall details across the country and asked whether it had issued any advisory to the affected states in this regard.

The bench said that as per data supplied to it, 12 districts in Bihar, 32 in Uttar Pradesh, 11 in Punjab and 13 in Gujarat have received deficient rainfall.

“Our idea is that you are ready for the future. Past mistakes are not repeated. You should be prepared for the situation, although the condition is not as bad as it was last year,” the bench said.

A central government official informed the court that over 35 lakh hectares of farm land have been sown and the Centre was providing all technical assistance to states.

The apex court is hearing a PIL on the plight of farmers in 12 states which were affected by drought last year.