The state government on Monday announced that it would bear the cost of exam fees for schoolgoing children in drought-hit areas, in addition to an earlier decision to reimburse their education fees.
Speaking during Question Hour, state School Education Minister Ashish Shelar also said that “reimbursements would be made within the next fortnight”.
Delayed onset of monsoon has aggravated the drought crisis in Maharashtra. About 42 per cent of the state’s land area has been declared drought-hit. Drought conditions have ravaged both kharif and rabi crop production in 2019-20, with official statistics showing that the kharif crop production had declined by over 12 per cent, while the rabi production was down 62 per cent.
A majority of MLAs from the ruling and Opposition benches pushed for the concessions, which are aimed at ensuring that students from drought-hit families do not drop out of school. The state has declared a drought in 151 tehsils and 269 revenue circles.
Shelar also hinted at pushing the reimbursement online in the near future.
Later in the evening, state Agriculture Minister Anil Bonde said the government would approach the Centre for relaxation in the qualification norms to avail crop insurance. He also said the state had decided to set up “vigilance panels” at the taluka and district levels to act against insurance companies and banks found delaying crop insurance payouts.
Power Minister Chandrasekhar Bawankule, meanwhile, admitted that farm electricity arrears had soared to Rs 31,090 crore. “But we haven’t disconnected any farm connection,” he said.
To overcome vacancies in the agriculture department, Bonde said the state has decided to recruit 18,000 agriculture students as interns, who would work with the department at the local level.