Government told Supreme Court that 256 districts with a population of about 33 crore spread over 12 states are affected by the drought.
Additional Solicitor General P.A. Narasimha, however, clarified that the declaration of a particular area as drought affected does not mean that the entire population of the area is affected by the natural calamity.
He said the total population in such areas may be 33 crore but the actual number of people affected by the drought is likely to be less than what is reflected in the gross population figures of affected districts.
A bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice N.V. Ramana said that about 25 per cent of the country’s total population is affected by the drought. The court asked the Centre to apprise it that how many households in the drought-hit areas got 150 days employment under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA).
The Apex Court also said that the Centre should adopt modern technology to assess drought situation in the States instead of following eye estimation method which is not even mentioned in the mannual for drought management.
The Government also informed the court that it has released Rs 19,000 crore under the MGNREGA as a relief measure. The government said, farmers in drought-hit areas are entitled to restructuring or rescheduling of their loans from the bank.
According to statistics, only 3% water is available in the Marathwada dams which can be used up by the people of the drought affected areas of Maharashtra.
The states eight major dams of the eleven have already dried up because of which the water in the remaining dams have to be lifted up for use.
An official from the Maharashtra Irrigation Department said that dams of the state have only 19 per cent water left compared to 32 per cent the same time last year.
Petitioner Swaraj Abhiyan argued that the budget allocation of Rs 38,500 crore to the rural job guarantee scheme MGNREGA for 2016-2017 is far short of the actual requirement and it should have been Rs 71,820 crore. Counsel for NGO, Prashant Bhushan sought relief for people in drought-hit states.