Coming down heavily on its “callous, and indifferent” approach towards distressed farmers, the Bombay High Court slammed the Maharashtra government and its officials for refusing to provide relief to poor farmers and their dependents in Amravati division of Eastern Vidarbha region.
Going a step further, the High Court directed the state government to immediately include 6147 villages of four districts—Amravati (1,967), Akola (997), Yavatmal (970), Washim (793)– in the list of drought affected villages based on their “Anewari” (a method of calculating crop yield by the revenue department).
About 1,420 villages of Buldana districts have been included in the list from original figure of zero. These villages will get the benefit as per GR dated October 20, 2015 about concessions offered to drought affected villages.
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A division bench here consisting of justices Bhushan Gavai and Prasanna Varale on Friday while giving a wake up call to state government over plight of farmers, wondered as to why revised report of Divisional Commissioner (Amravati) is not enforced in four districts and particularly in farmers suicide-hit Yavatmal district and only in respect of Buldana district.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Devanand Pawar and Gram Vikas Bahu-Uddeshiya Sanstha, a local organisation, through their counsel Advocate Anil Kilor complaining about faulty methodology adopted to deprive villages of Vidarbha from getting benefits of drought though “Paisewari” was below 50 paise (below 50 pc) in large number of villages.
The High Court minced no words while denouncing the indifferent and callous approach of the bureaucracy and tersely observed that sitting in air conditioned chambers they would never understand “hardships suffered by poor farmers”.
The Divisional Commissioner in his report dated November 7, 2015 had recommended declaration of drought in 6147 villages and even then nothing has been done in respect of four district, the High Court said while passing scathing strictures against the authorities.
Making it clear that it was not transgressing its constitutional role, the High Court stated that since the financial year was coming to an end, it had little choice but to direct the State Government to include all 6,147 villages of Amravati divisions in the list of drought affected and extend relief measures as per law.
Else, poor farmers of these districts would be deprived of drought relief measures, the High Court stated.
The High Court also criticised the argument advanced by AGP Deepak Thakre on behalf of State that since November, 2015, there was a rainfall of 75 per cent, the villages in Amravati, Akola, Washim and Yavatmal could not be considered as drought affected villages and that “paisewari” was not the only criteria for classifying villages as drought affected.
Dismissing this argument with contempt, the High Court observed “we find that like his clients, the learned AGP sitting in air conditioned chambers appears to have advanced the arguments.
“If Paisewari is not the relevant criteria, then we would like the learned AGP and his clients (State) to enlighten us on the next date as to what is the relevant criteria to declare the villages as drought affected,” he said.
After scanty rainfall, the State Government on September 15 had directed divisional commissioners of Nagpur, Amravati and Aurangabad to finalise approximate “paisewari” by September 30 so that a proper report could be forwarded to the Centre.
Subsequently, the Amravati Divisional Commissioner himself forwarded the list of 6,147 villages on November 7 last year based on fresh survey, but barring Buldhana, villages from other districts were left out.
After hearing the entire chronology, the High Court found to its dismay that communication of a senior officer like Divisional Commissioner was implemented only in respect of one district and absolutely flimsy reasons were forwarded.