Why is Karnataka protesting change in definition of drought?

What is in news?

Karnataka government has opposed Centre’s move to change parameters for drought assessment.

Why Karnataka opposing?

The new manual for drought management limits Centre’s scope to offer financial assistance to states in the eventuality of drought.

The ‘moderate’ drought category has been deleted in the new manual.

It means drought-hit areas will now be categorised as ‘normal’ and ‘severe’. Only in case of ‘severe’ drought, a state would be eligible for central assistance from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF).

Karnataka state  alleges that the Centre has unilaterally changed norms for assistance from NDRF without consulting the states.

Most of the districts in Karnataka will not be considered for Centre’s assistance as they do not come under new definition of ‘severe’ drought.

The reason behind registering a protest is a visible attempt from the Centre to steer clear of the liability of providing relief to tackle ‘moderate drought’. Also, the technical criteria to show that drought is ‘severe’ in nature have been made more stringent.

New conditions included in the norms will make it more difficult for the states to prove ‘severe’ drought and get relief from the Centre as the yardstick to measure severity of drought has been made stricter. This is a double whammy for most of the states as they lack drought early warning systems.

2009 manual for drought management

which was a mere guideline and not mandatory for the states to follow—the ‘moderate’ drought category has been deleted in the new manual.

Supportive of states as they could get Centre’s assistance even if they suffered ‘moderate’ drought.

The 2009 manual had four parameters to assess drought:  rainfall deficiency, extent of area sown, normalised difference vegetation index and moisture adequacy index. These parameters left much scope for manipulation.

Consider less than three weeks of dry spell

 ‘Manual for Drought Management’ in December 2016.

Don’t prevent states to put a drought-hit region under ’moderate’ category, the states, however, will have to pay for the relief from their own pocket. The Centre has absolved itself from the responsibility of providing assistance to states in case of ‘moderate’ drought.

The new norms, which are mandatory in nature, were formulated based on the direction of the Supreme Court.

The manual made it clear that states have to spend from its exchequer to tackle ‘moderate’ drought and approach the Union government only for cases of ‘severe’ drought.

The new manual, which adopted standard practices from across the world, gives six parameters for declaration of drought.

These categories of indices are Rainfall, Vegetation, Hydrological indices, Crops situation indices, ground verification and others. These six indices are further elaborated into more than 13 sub-points, making it technically extensive.

Except rainfall and ground verification, all other indices are considered impact indicators. To come under ‘severe’ drought category, a state has to prove severity in three out of these four impact indicators. Even if two indicators suggest severity of drought, the state would be shifted to ‘normal’ category.

Considers more than three weeks of dry spell

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