Tamil Nadu chief Minister O Panneerselvam declared the entire state drought-hit on Tuesday and announced measures worth Rs 160 cr and Rs 350 cr to alleviate water crisis in urban and rural local bodies respectively.
Panneerselvam also ordered rescheduling of farm loans, cancellation of land tax and compensation for lost crop to the drought affected farmers.
The worst drought in 140 years, triggered by a severely deficient monsoon, has forced over 65 farmers to commit suicide in the last two months, although the government claims 17 farmers have taken their lives.
Farmers associations have been demanding compensation at the rate of Rs 25,000 per acre for crop loss, a demand that has been endorsed by all the opposition parties. DMK leader MK Stalin had even taken the issue up with the chief minister the day he took over as the working party of his party last week.
Panneerselvam also announced a compensation of Rs 3 lakh each to the next of kin of the 17 farmers who committed suicide due to drought, but that number has only drawn fire from the farmers.
BR Pandian, Tamil Nadu farmers’ association leader, said not only was the number higher but the government was trying to mislead and cheat the farmers.
“We had demanded Rs 25,000 per acre compensation but what the government is promising is Rs 5400 per acre compensation,” Pandian said.
However, the chief minister said the government was allocating more funds to tackle the immediate problems faced by the farming community.
In a statement on Tuesday, the chief minister said steps to provide employment to the rural population would be taken up at an outlay of Rs 3400 crore. The people would be engaged in de-silting of canals and tanks. The government would also spend Rs 78 crore to provide fodder for cattle.
An official team that surveyed the extent of drought had submitted its report on Monday, the chief minister said. Employment under MNREGA would also be increased by 50 days to 150 days, he said.