NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - India's Supreme Court on Wednesday summoned top bureaucrats from 10 states to explain why they have not provided food grains, loan waivers and compensation for crop losses to millions of people hit by a drought last year.
More than 330 million people - almost a quarter of India's population - were hit by water shortages across 13 of the country's 29 states, including Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
But even though the country's top court ordered 10 states to put in place measures to support drought-stricken communities nearly a year ago, little has been done, activists said.
"This is important because the apex court generally does not summon top government officials," said Avik Saha, vice president of Swaraj Abhiyan, a charity which filed a petition in the court, accusing the 10 states of contempt of the court order.
"This is significant because peoples' lives are at risk. They have neither food nor money for their survival."
Last year's drought caused crop failures, water shortages and excessive debt, prompting hundreds of families across the country to flee villages in search of food, water and jobs.
The Supreme Court in May ordered the states to provide stricken villagers with relief including 5 kg of subsidised food grains monthly, financial compensation for crop losses and loan repayment waivers for debt-hit farmers.
The chief secretaries, the most senior civil servants in the states, have been ordered to appear before the Supreme Court on April 26.
(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty. Additional reporting and writing by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla; Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)