Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday pledged to make Maharashtra drought free by year 2019, while declaring a Rs 7,000 crore relief and Rs 34,500 crore long term drought package to tackle the agrarian crisis in region of Vidarbha and Marathwada. The state has urged centre to release Rs 4,677 crore for immediate drought relief.
Apart from extending crop loan Rs 480 crore and electricty bill waiver for last three months Rs 215 crore, the government took a big step forward to relieve the farmers from money lenders by repaing their debt of Rs 373 crore. To facilitate farmers from availing the bank loans the government has decided to pay Rs 435 crore for rescheduling the loans at the interest rate of 15 per cent. ” I want to end the exploitation of farmers by money lenders in state.”
Adopting a multi-pronged strategy to address the problems of drought in Maharashtra, chief minister said the farmers suicide is a shame for a progressive state like Maharashtra. Avoiding any political barbs against the opposition who had taken him to task a day earlier, Fadnavis said, ” International standards always treat drought as a manmade calamity and its high time we have to get to the root cause to tackle the farmer’s plight.”
While emphasising on the paradigm shift in tackling drought in Maharashtra, he spoke of convergence of 14 irrigation and agriculture schemes to moblise the funds through integrated approach under one command to serve the ambitious long term projects for enhancing the irrigation potential coupled with severe water management. “We have to make higher investments for the development of enhancing irrigation potental and agriculture growth.”
At present the irrigation potential is just 18 per cent. And agriculture growth is not more than 2.5 per cent. The government has decided to make 5000 villages drought free within one year and 19,059 in next five years.
According to Fadnavis, ” Almost 40 to 45 per cent cases of farmers suicides were an outcome of coercision by money lenders. ” He said, ” The government would strictly enforce the money lenders act. And also crack the whip against money lenders who are operating without legal licenses.”
At the outset he made it clear that the crop loan and electricity loan waiver to farmers by his government was a one time special case for region of Vidarbha and Marathwada considering the magnitiude of the crisis. And that it should not become a trend in future.
Outlining the roadmap of the government he said, ” Undertaking Integrated Water Management Programme we would take water conservation schemes in 50 lakh hectares of land for which Rs 6,437 crore would be invested. There would be 50,000 cement nullas worth Rs 5,000 crore.” The farm ponds covering 2.50 lakh hectares would require Rs 1,500 crore. Another Rs 5,000 crore will be accorded for drip irrigation that would cover 10lakh hectares of land. There were slew of other meaures including collective farm ponds, broad base furrow, dry land projects worth Rs 2,500 crore.”
Explaining that agriculture subsidies to farmers in power sector cannot become a permanent policy he said, ” We will install five lakh solar pumps with an investment of Rs 1,500 crore.” Fadnavis said, ” The industries which are high power consuming sectors have made it clear that cannot absorb higher expenditure which is often passed by the government in lieu to subsidise the agriculture sector which is Rs 2,000 crore anunally.” The non-conventional energy sources have to be tapped, he added.
Fadnavis said, ” In last five years Rs 8,377 crore were spend on providing relief to farmers and investment for development in agriculture was just Rs 2,652 crore.”
However, leaders of Congress and NCP dismissed the government’s package as continuation of old schemes. The former agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “The dry land farming and soil sampling are some of the ongoing schemes. The only new thing is to repay the money lenders loan and free farmers from debt.” The former finance minister Jayant Patil said, ” The government has not explained how it intends to mobilise the resources to executing the schemes. The centre’s component is not clear. And how the state would mobilise the funds for completing in the ongoing irrigation works in next five years.” The former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said, ” The thrust is on long term planning. But they are silent on higher renumerations to soyabean, cotton and sugar cane growing farmers. The farmers require immediate financial help.” According to former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, ” We had also highlighed the need for water conservation to tackle long term drought.”