Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has convened an emergency meeting of his cabinet ministers at Latur on Friday to review and initiate short- and long-term measures to tackle the severe drought situation in Maharashtra.
The onset of summer has got the government worried, as demand for fodder camps coupled with sinking water tables in state’s biggest dams are playing havoc with the drinking water supply in some districts of Marathwada, Vidarbha and parts of North and Western Maharashtra.
Highly placed sources in the government said the biggest concern was of drinking water in drought-hit districts, but they had plans in place. “The state is already in talks with Union railway minister Suresh Prabu to ensure water supply through trains, if the situation requires it mid-March onwards. There is no reason to panic as ways to supply both fodder and drinking water for the next four months are being worked out,” said a leader.
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All the cabinet ministers from BJP and Shiv Sena have set out on drought inspection tours to their respective districts earmarked by the government. On Friday, they will present their inputs from the ground, which will then be discussed in detail at the special cabinet meeting in Latur.
Fadnavis reckons that till the onset of monsoon in June-July, they will have to make elaborate plans to address the drinking water and fodder camp problems in the worst-hit districts. In the second week of February, Fadnavis had directed district collectors to restart the fodder camps, which were shut down by the agriculture and revenue department in some districts.
The drought meeting assumes great significance as it comes ahead of the crucial Budget Session commencing from March 9. While the Congress-NCP has already scaled up attack on the government on the drought situation, what has it worried is the public outcry, which ministers believe cannot be left unattended.
Leader of the Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil is already on a week-long tour to districts of Latur, Beed, Osmanabad, Aurangabad and Pune. Opposition leader in legislative council Dhananjay Munde has also set out on tour of Marathwada. As part of remedial measures, Fadnavis has decided to engage the administration and local organisations to address the problem. A few days ago, he held a meeting with newly elected district BJP presidents. Sources in the BJP said, “The idea is to mobilise the party unit to work at the grass roots and attend to problems in remote villages.”
At the party levels, they have shortlisted 15,747 villages reeling under dry spell from 21 districts in the state. Every district chief has been provided a detailed chart on villages to be covered, along with workers support system. While the district and taluka administration will be the nodal agency in reaching out with water and fodder, the role of the BJP workers would be to work as a bridge to monitor the implementation of government schemes. They would also work as input providers where the system is found lacking.
“The government should waive off loans to provide immediate relief to farmers. They need to provide fodder camps and deploy more water tankers in Marathwada,” Vikhe-Patil said.