New Delhi: With rainfall deficit still prevalent in most parts of the country, government today announced a diesel subsidy for irrigation in states where rainfall shortage is more than 50 per cent to protect the standing kharif crops.

Besides diesel subsidy, the government has raised the subsidy ceiling to buy seeds to partially compensate farmers for resowing. It has also decided to give a special package of Rs 35,000 per hectare to farmers for rejuvenation of horticultural crops in drought-hit declared areas.

Announcing these measures in the Rajya Sabha, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said, “No state has declared drought yet. However, there are reports that in many places rainfall deficit is more. A day before yesterday, a decision was taken to provide diesel subsidy to farmers.”

A directive has been been issued to state governments that diesel subsidy be given to farmers for irrigation in areas where rainfall deficit is over 50 per cent, he said.

The decision to provide a 50 per cent diesel subsidy, to be equally borne by the Centre and state governments, was taken in a recent Cabinet meeting, an official source said.

During the drought years in 2009 and 2012, the previous United Progressive Alliance government had announced a 50 per cent diesel subsidy for farmers in rainfall deficit areas.

Noting that monsoon deficit has come down since June, the minister said the overall deficit stood at 18 per cent as on August 8 from 40 per cent deficit in June. Water level in reservoirs is 113 per cent of last ten years’ average.

“Weather reports do not give clear picture as there are places having 50 per cent rain deficit,” he said, adding his ministry has drawn up contingency plans for 520 districts.

In its second forecast, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) said the southwest monsoon may be below normal, with the country likely to receive 93 per cent of the long-period average rainfall.

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