Six months after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis convened a meeting in Aurangabad after the Council of Ministers completed a three-day tour of the drought-stricken region, the Cabinet will once again meet in Aurangabad Tuesday, this time to discuss the measures to be taken after floods destroyed almost 50 per cent of the Kharif crops in the districts of Latur, Beed, Osmanabad and Nanded in Marathwada region.
Apart from the Marathwada floods, 25 policy decisions on long-term water management to tackle both drought and floods are likely to be discussed in the special Cabinet meeting.
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The government believes the erratic climatic changes that lead to drought, hailstorm and floods in Maharashtra require a thorough scientific study to tackle the causes and its solution. What has alarmed the state is the failure of the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to predict the intensity of the floods.
“The preliminary reports from districts indicate 50 per cent Kharif crops have been washed out due to floods. The farmers growing soyabean, cotton and jowari will be among the worst hit. The exact crop loss both in terms of area of cultivation and financial would be ascertained once the water in the fields recede,” said Agriculture Minister Pandurang Phundkar.
Admitting that the floods were unexpected, he said, “There were no reports of floods from the IMD. It had indicated rains.”
Of the total 149 lakh hectares of crops sown, soyabean accounted for a stretch of 35 lakh hectares. The remaining stretch covered cotton, jowari, tur dal, moong, udat and others.
At an internal session before the Cabinet meeting, sources said, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis indicated that financial help to the farmers who suffered crop losses would be given higher priority. The district collectors, along with revenue department and agriculture department officials, are learnt to have been asked to provide the estimate on crop loss and agriculture area affected by the floods.
The meeting decided the sugarcane crushing season would commence from December 1. Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “There are already set guidelines on relief that needs to be extended to the farmers when hit by natural calamities. The government will surely extend all possible help.”
Highly placed sources said the Aurangabad Cabinet meeting was initially supposed to discuss development projects to tackle the problems related to agriculture and employment, but the floods would now shift the focus on the immediate relief that could be provided to the affected people.
At the Cabinet meeting, an additional Rs 4,500 crore, as per the revised cost estimate, would be allocated for two mega irrigation projects that have been in the pipeline for the last two decades.
A comprehensive district-wise plan for skill development projects to train the unemployed youths, coupled with water management through water grid projects worth Rs 15,000 crore, is likely to be discussed at the meeting. Once the actual losses are ascertained, the possibility of the state government seeking more aid from the Centre to override the crisis cannot be ruled out.