As rural Maharashtra reels under the grip of another drought, the state’s fodder crisis is all set to become more severe. RTI documents, accessed by The Indian Express from the central Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, shows the central government has stonewalled the state’s request of over Rs 500 crore assistance to deal with the fodder crisis in Maharashtra. With the drought just about unfolding, the state has reported 809 fodder camps with over 4 lakh animals being deposited there by farmers who have not been able to generate fodder and water for their animals.
Failure of the monsoons, especially in Nashik and Marathwada, has led to the declaration of drought in 151 talukas of the state. Both rabi and kharif crops have been hit in these areas with water scarcity taking a toll on human and animals alike. Failure of crops like jowar, elephant or napier grass, maize etc has caused a serious fodder crisis, which has threatened livestock across the state. The problem has been acute in Marathwada, where farmers had complained of fodder crisis as early as in October.
In view of the drought, the Maharashtra government had asked for assistance from the Centre for relief and rehabilitation. Documents show the first proposal had seen the state government pegging the projected expenditure on fodder till June 2019 at Rs 95.13 crore, which was further raised to Rs 440.37 crore. The expenditure was slated for both fodder and water as per government norms.
The drought cattle camps, where farmers can bring their livestock, are mostly set up by state government agencies. During the drought of 2012-13, the state had seen several cattle camps coming up to tackle the fodder and water crisis.
In order to gauge the drought situation in the state, an Inter Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) had visited Maharashtra between December 5 and 7, last year. The team’s report shows the IMCT had turned down the state government’s request. “Since the state government of Maharashtra has not started its cattle conservation activities/cattle camps from the date of declaration of drought, i.e October 31, in these 151 drought declared blocks till the time of submission of this report and as such no expenditure has been incurred under the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) for cattle conservation activities/cattle camps, the IMCT is of the view that the state government of Maharashtra may first utilise available funds under the SDRF as per the NDRF/SDRF norms,” the report read. The team has thus refused to sanction any central assistance for the same.
Officers of the animal husbandry department pointed out that the timing of the visit of the ICMT had coincided with the sugarcane crushing season and the green tops of the crop had provided fodder for the animals. In fact, sugar mills had reported increased number of cane harvesters who had migrated to the mills from their villages in search of water and cane. “The fodder crisis starts becoming acute once the mills stop their crushing, which is post March,” the officer said.
Laxminarayan Mishra, commissioner, animal husbandry, said his office would write to the central government, asking for assistance. “The necessary paper work would be completed soon,” he said.