MAHARASHTRA’S ONGOING drought crisis has affected more than 82 lakh farmers, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the state Assembly on Thursday.
“About 85.76 lakh hectare of cultivated area has been hit by drought. This involves 82.27 lakh farmers,” Fadnavis said in reply to a discussion on the drought issue.
More than half of Maharashtra has been declared drought-hit, with farmers seeking emergency assistance. The state has close to 1.5 crore farmers.
With the crisis being equated with the Maharashtra’s drought of 1972, where there was largescale migration from rural belts, discussion in the Assembly over the crisis were spread over two days.
Incidentally, while listing the various drought mitigation and relief measures enacted by the government, Fadnavis did not extend fresh assistance. Slamming the government for the crisis, the Opposition had earlier pressed for a relief assistance of Rs 1 lakh per hectare to cash crops such as sugarcane, bananas, grapes, and horticulture crops, and Rs 50,000 per hectare for other crops.
Fadnavis claimed that his government has already set aside Rs 3,000 crore from the state’s budget and sought a financial assistance of Rs 7,022 crore from the Centre for drought relief and mitigation measures. Rubbishing the Opposition’s allegation that the Centre’s revision of drought declaration norms had adversely impacted the state, Fadnavis said that the revised norms, issued in 2016, were more “scientific and less arbitrary”.
Anticipating severe water scarcity in several parts of the state, the CM said that orders have already been issued to collectors of drought-hits districts to make drinking water requirement the utmost priority while drawing up dam water management plans. He added that the government has decided to write off past year’s arrears for abandoned water supply schemes in drought belts, while allowing for the restructuring of the remaining arrears.
According to government estimates, about 1.8 crore animals have been hit by drought. It has been estimated that more than 116 lakh metric tonne (MT) of fodder will be required to feed the animals. Indicating that the government could face fodder shortage, Fadnavis said that while 99 lakh MT of fodder is currently available, measures have been initiated for production of the remaining required quantity.
Fadnavis said that the state had written to the Centre to allow more man days of work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, while stating that the state itself has plans to ensure a total job guarantee for 215 days in the year. The Opposition had earlier questioned that implementation of the chief minister’s Jalyukt Shivar scheme, alleging that it was corruption-driven. Refuting the allegation, Fadnavis listed how the works undertaken under the scheme had enhanced agricultural productivity.
Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil had earlier flashed a report of the state agriculture commissionerate regarding the various instances of irregularities and corruption detected during inspection of the works undertaken under the scheme. Admitting that there had been some irregularities, Fadnavis said that criminal cases will be lodged in all such instances.
He also refuted the Opposition’s claim that there has been corruption in the crop insurance scheme.