Deficient rains and deepening farm crisis, coupled with rising political pressure, seem to have forced the Maharashtra government to consider yet another farm package, despite a delicate financial position. Sources confirmed that the Devendra Fadnavis government was all set to dole out a fresh package for the drought-hit farmers.
Amid rising pressure from the Opposition and ally Shiv Sena for a farm loan waiver, the Maharashtra cabinet Thursday discussed the components of the new farm package. While the modalities are still being worked out, government functionaries confirmed that the financial package could be to the tune of Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 crore.
The plan for a fresh financial assistance comes at a time when the public debt in Maharashtra has already crossed Rs 3.85 lakh crore.
During the ongoing monsoon session of the state legislature, the government has already submitted supplementary budgetary demands totalling nearly Rs 15,000 crore. Of this, Rs 3,000 crore has been set aside for the burden the public exchequer would bear following the partial lifting of the toll tax and the scrapping of local body tax (LBT) in urban areas from August 1. A 10-15 per cent cut on spend in development works might have to be imposed following the announcement of the new package, sources said.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has projected that monsoon won’t become active again in Maharashtra until the first week of August, spelling fears of yet another loss of kharif crops. Several parts of the state, which has already reported the highest number of farm suicides in the country, have been reeling under drought and crop failures for three years now.
In a bid to reach out to the farming community, sources said, the new package would be split into various components, including provisions of fertilisers and seeds in drought-hit areas, spend of supply of fodder and water supply to such areas, provisions for cloud seeding and restructuring of loans, among others.
On Thursday, the cabinet asked the authorities to work out the burden for each. State’s finance managers have also been directed to assess the maximum extent of financial burden that the exchequer could bear and the nature of cuts that might have to be imposed on development spend.