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Andhra declared drought-hit

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HYDERABAD - Andhra Pradesh was Wednesday declared drought-hit - a move that will enable the state to avail of central government funds and take up relief works in affected areas.

Acting Chief Minister K. Rosaiah said the government has declared 971 mandals or administrative divisions as suffering from drought. The state, which has a total of 1,128 mandals — each comprising five to 10 villages, is facing drought for the first time in six years.

The drought announcement was to be made by Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy Sep 4 but he was killed in a helicopter crash Sep 2 while going to Chittoor for a mass contact programme, which was also aimed at reassuring people of drought relief measures.

The much-awaited announcement will help the state avail of funds under central government schemes and take up relief works in affected areas.

Rosaiah said the state has sought Rs.40 billion (Rs.4,000 crore) in financial assistance from the centre for drought relief measures.

He told reporters that except Hyderabad and Srikakulam districts the remaining 21 districts were declared drought affected. “Though some mandals in Srikakulam district are also drought affected, we are not making the announcement in view of the by-elections to one assembly seat there,” he said.

The rainfall deficit in the affected areas is 32 percent. It was 50 percent last month but heavy rains during the last few days have brought down the deficit.

After a long delay, the government officially declared the state drought hit. YSR, as the popular chief minister was popularly known, had repeatedly turned down the state’s requests last month saying an announcement in a hurry would deprive farmers of bank loans.

YSR had reviewed loan disbursement at a state level bankers’ meeting Aug 23. He found that only 50 percent of the Rs.140 billion (Rs.14,000 crore) loans targeted for distribution during the kharif season were disbursed.

YSR had asked banks to disburse Rs.70 billion (Rs.7,000 crore) loans to farmers by August-end to ensure timely sowing of crop seeds.

This is the first time in six years that the state is facing drought. The state received normal rainfall during the first five years of YSR, who had taken oath as chief minister for a second consecutive term in June.

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