WITH parts of the state having suffered a severe drought and crop damage, the Maharashtra government has sought Rs 4,002.82 crore from the Union government as relief package. Besides compensating farmers for crop loss, the government plans to use the money to start schemes to boost drinking water supply and set up fodder camps.
The agriculture department sent a memorandum to the Union government three days ago, seeking Rs 3,578.43 crore as aid for farmers who have suffered crop loss, Rs 314.56 crore for supply of drinking water and Rs 109.83 crore to provide adequate fodder to animals. The government has declared a drought-like condition in 15,747 villages across Maharashtra, mostly in Marathwada and parts of Western Maharashtra, affecting 53.1 lakh hectare area.
Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse said, “A team of Union government officials is expected to arrive in the state tomorrow to visit all drought-hit villages and assess the situation. The team will start its survey from Aurangabad and wind up its visit in two days.”
After the team’s visit, the Union government will convene a meeting with state officials to take a final decision on the aid, Khadse said, adding that until now the Centre had helped with Rs 570 crore to deal with the drought. Besides, the government has also accessed the State Disaster Relief Fund, apart from levying a surcharge on a range of items such as petrol, diamond and gold jewellery, alcohol, cold drinks and cigarettes in order to tackle the drought.
Overall, the state received only 59.4 per cent of the total anticipated rainfall between June 1 and October 31 with long dry spells. Seven districts received between 25 and 50 per cent of the rainfall and that received in 16 districts was between 50 and 75 per cent of the total expected, as per information from the state agriculture department.
“Over the last five years, the groundwater level has fallen by one metre in 13,571 villages. Of this, in 4,189 villages the groundwater level has dipped to 3 metres below average. There is likely to be an acute shortage of drinking water in 10,615 villages by April 2016,” said Khadse.