The Centre on Wednesday sanctioned Rs 844 crore for relief to hailstorm-hit farmers in Maharashtra after getting a nod from the Election Commission.
Several farmers have reportedly committed suicide in the state after their crops were damaged by the severe hailstorm. Maharashtra has suffered more than Rs 5,000 crore of agricultural loss.
Neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, which was also affected by the calamity, will receive Rs 300 crore as relief.
The Centre has decided to release Rs 630 crore as subsidies for small and marginal farmers, and Rs 214 crore for those with bigger agricultural tracts in Maharashtra, a senior official said.
The decision to release the funds was taken by a high-level committee comprising Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and National Disaster Management authority (NDMA) vice-chairman M Sashidhar Reddy.
“Since the model code of conduct is in existence, we had to take the permission of the Election Commission to clear the funds. The money will be released from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF),” said an official on condition of anonymity.
The official added there was no discussion on giving compensation packages to Karnataka and Rajasthan, where a few districts have been affected by the hailstorm.
A central team had visited the affected states last week and the money was sanctioned based on a report given by the officials. The team submitted a report that more than 17.7 lakh hectares of agricultural land spanning across 28 districts had been hit by the hailstorm and more than 50 per cent crops were damaged.
The severely affected districts of Maharashtra are Pune, Sholapur, Beed, Nanded, Jalna, Parbhani, Buldhana, Dhule and Nashik.
“Whatever the inter-ministerial committee suggested was accepted at the high-level meeting. The money will be disbursed on an immediate basis,” said the official.
The Centre also sanctioned the money for flood affected states in Uttar Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh.
Maharashtra gives Rs 4000-cr relief
The Maharashtra cabinet on Wednesday chalked out a special compensation package worth Rs 4,000 crore for farmers affected by the recent hailstorms and unseasonal rain.
The state government has decided to waive electricity bills for farmers in the affected regions for six months starting February, a decision that will burden the state exchequer by Rs 200 crore.
Further, a one-time monetary compensation of Rs 10,000 per hectare for non-irrigated but cultivated land, Rs 15,000 per hectare for irrigated land and Rs 25,000 per hectare for land under horticulture will be given to affected farmers. However, this compensation benefit will be capped at 2 hectare per farmer.
The cabinet has also decided to put a stay on the recovery of crop loans for the time being apart from bearing the burden of interest of crop loans for a year. This will burden the state exchequer by Rs 268 crore.