The centre on Tuesday sanctioned a Rs 3,049-crore financial package to tackle drought in Maharashtra. At a meeting in Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh gave their consent to allocate
Rs 3,049 crore to the state to provide relief to farmers.
The state government had sent a proposal seeking a Rs 4,500-crore package from the Centre to provide compensation to farmers for crop damages. While acknowledging that Maharashtra intends to make greater investment in the agriculture sector, the state government is exploring modes to raise revenue to generate more finances for the 2016-17 budget.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “This is the biggest-ever relief package given by the government to Maharashtra. I personally spoke to Rajnath Singh(ji) and expressed gratitude for support to state to tackle the agro-crisis.”
In a message to critics, he said, “The Centre’s package is a befitting reply to all my critics who, instead of uniting for the farmers’ cause, were trying to play politics.” “Yet, my government reckons the challenges are plenty ahead in the agro-sector and we are committed to resolve the problems of farmers.”
Earlier, the Centre had provided Rs 2,000 crore package. “My government will not stop with this package. To provide long-term solutions to agro-crisis we will have to tap larger financial resources to bring agriculture growth to a positive index in the next three years,” he said.
Apart from providing crop loss compensation, the chief minister issued directives to district collectors to roll out plans for water management from February to July in drought-prone districts. The state government’s proposals worthRs 10,512 crore includes
Rs 2,500 crore for farm ponds to farmers who demand it.
To facilitate larger number of farmers to avail financial relief, the government had revised the compensation norms from 50 per cent crop loss to 33 per cent crop loss. The decision has helped them to extend the financial relief to 25 per cent more farmers. Besides, the state government has directed district collectors to begin water management to tackle the water problems till next monsoon.
Fadnavis said, “At the end of the fourth consecutive drought, we have to prepare the roadmap for water management for the next six months. And also hope coming June-July would bring better monsoons. We are identifying the main water sources. But if even they run dry before monsoons we will have to provide some alternative, which remains the biggest concern.”
“Whether it is the Centre or the state, financial constraints will not come in the way of relief to farmers. We want to bring number of farmers availing credit loans to 75 to 80 percent. At present only 35 to 40 per cent qualify for financial institution loans, which is the real root of the crisis and attributed to distress leading to suicides. It can be overcome by greater investment in the agro-sector and also providing robust market to farm products. Water and power supply to farmers is part of the infrastructure where government will make highest investment,” he observed.
Every district has been asked to tap potential water bodies and simultaneously work to revive old structures which can be cost effective and help in bringing larger areas of barren land under irrigation.
The Congress-NCP dismissed the Centre’s package as “peanuts”. Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “I wish the state had declared a complete loan waiver. It would have helped farmers better along with Centre’s package.”