The state government is set to declare 179 out of the total 355 talukas drought-prone in the state. The decision will pave way for deployment of tankers in these talukas. Various concessions such as electricity bill and school fee waiver will also be extended.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said, “The government has taken the decision to declare 179 talukas drought-prone. Water tankers will be deployed in talukas to meet the scarcity. To enable farmers cope with the challenges, electricity bills and school fees will be exempted in the drought-prone talukas. There would be concessions given in revenue taxes among other measures.”
The decision came in the wake of water crisis following poor rain coupled with long dry spell in monsoon. The state seen an average rainfall of 77 per cent this year. Absence of rain in the second half of the monsoon has adversely affected kharif and rabi crops. Fadnavis said, “All relief measures are being planned and would be enforced with immediate effect… Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reassured that the Centre will provide all necessary assistance.”
Notwithstanding the drought situation, the government believes that the real concern was scarcity of water. The projection of surplus food production to cope with the drought is being attributed to the positive impact of Jalyukta Shivar scheme undertaken in the state since 2015.
Statistics furnished by the ministry of water conservation showed that despite recurring drought, the total food production in state between 2014-15 and 2017-18 was a record 650 lakh metric tonne.
Water Conservation Minister Ram Shinde said, “Despite low rainfall, the ground water tables in 101 drought-prone talukas have risen. Last year, Marathwada registered a rise in water tables by 4.5 metres, which is an outcome of projects undertaken through Jalyukta Shivar.”
In Solapur, which is perennially under drought, the area of producing kharif crops increased from 80,000 hectare in 2013-14 to 3 lakh hectare in 2016-17. “The demand for electricity increased to 5.20 per cent (2015); 9.04 per cent (2016); 1.78 per cent (2017); 29 per cent (2018), which is a pointer to the fact that farmers are availing the water stored in Jalyukta Shivar structures for farming even when there is less rain,” said Shinde.
A secretary in department of agriculture said surplus food production despite poor rain in the last four years was because of Jalyukta Shivar, which had enabled farmers to take more than two crops, including vegetable farming.
“The kharif production in 2013-14 was 196 lakh metric tonne when the rainfall was 109 per cent. In 2014-15, it was 132 lakh metric tonne with 70 per cent rainfall. In 2015-16, kharif production was 105 lakh metric tonne with rainfall as low as 59 per cent. In 2016-17 the production was the highest at 223 lakh metric tonne with a rainfall of 95 per cent. In 2017-18, kharif production was 180 lakh metric tonne with a rainfall of 84 per cent.”