THE STATE government on Tuesday decided to dive into the state’s contingency fund to speed up financial assistance for drought relief.
About a third of Maharashtra’s talukas were declared drought-hit last October. In January this year, the Centre approved a drought assistance package of Rs 4,714 crore. But with an eye at Lok Sabha elections, the BJP government in the state was keen to speed up the disbursal of the relief amount.
“It was decided to avail an advance from the contingency fund. We will raise supplementary grants in the coming Budget Session of the state legislature to recoup this advance,” said a senior official. Rain shadow regions in Marathwada, north Maharashtra and Vidarbha have been the worst impacted by this year’s drought.
The state government had originally approached the Centre for drought assistance worth Rs 7,962 crore, which included Rs 7,103 crore for crop damages, Rs 535 crore for providing fodder and Rs 323 crore for supplying water.
In the build-up to the elections, the Opposition has been targeting the Fadnavis government over the delay in drought relief work, and the “poor” implementation of the farm loan waiver scheme.
In another sop to the Vidarbha belt, the government announced a decision to allow conversion of over 36,971 government-owned Nazul properties into ownership tenures. With the Vidarbha belt being a part of the Central Province and Berar until 1956, these land — mainly situated in Nagpur and Amravati districts — had been leased by then province rulers for residential, commercial and industrial purposes.
Over the years, a majority of these properties have witnessed irregular transfers and unauthorised constructions. In August 2014, then Prithviraj Chavan government, in the run-up to the 2014 Assembly polls, had announced a policy for the regularisation of such violations.
But senior officials argued that the response to the 2014 policy was lukewarm owing to “high” premiums charged. On Tuesday, the Fadnavis government replicated the conversion policy implemented by the Madhya Pradesh government, which has also permitted freeing up of such Nazul lands.
Following Tuesday’s decision, leaseholds of all such lands would have the option of paying premiums for conversion of these lands on ownership basis. A premium of 5 per cent of the ready reckoner value of the plot will be payable for residential properties, and 10 per cent for commercial and industrial properties. Ready reckoner value is the market value of a plot as determined by the government. It is normally lesser than the actual market price of the property.
In the 2014 state polls, the BJP had won 44 out of the 62 Assembly seats in Vidarbha. On Tuesday, the Cabinet also reached out to cotton farmers in the region revising the financing model for cotton cooperatives. The norm for the share capital contribution from farmers has been halved, while the state’s contribution has been raised.
In another decision, the state okayed penal action against Pune-based self-financed Spicer Adventist University, which has been embroiled in a controversy involving the issuance of fake degrees. The government has, however, said that measures would be taken to ensure that the students impacted by it are accommodated.