AMID CONTINUING uncertainty over government formation, the agrarian crisis in Maharashtra has deepened, prompting Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari to convene an emergency meeting on Friday. This is the first major meeting he will be chairing after President’s Rule was imposed in Maharashtra.
With unseasonal rain leaving a trail of destruction, the state administration on Thursday pegged the damage to standing crop on 88.74 lakh hectares of farmland across the state. With official panchnamas to assess the extent of the damage nearing completion, sources that the untimely rain has inflicted losses for nearly 1 crore farmers.
Cyclonic disturbances in the Arabian Sea and revival of monsoon as it withdrew had led to post-monsoon rain towards the end of October, damaging lakhs of acres of standing crop under kharif cultivation, including soyabean, cotton, maize, jowar and bajra.
Sources said Koshyari’s first major challenge under President’s Rule would be to ensure no further delay in the submission of the memorandum of assistance (MoA) to the Union government to ensure that the affected farmers are compensated quickly. Before the imposition of President’s Rule, a cabinet sub-committee under Devendra Fadnavis had agreed to set aside Rs 10,000 crore for relief measures.
But with almost all parties demanding that the farmers be compensated at a rate over and above the financial assistance norms set by the Centre, the spotlight is now on the Governor. While the Centre pays Rs 6,800 per hectare for rainfed crops, parties have been demanding Rs 25,000 per hectate for the losses. Similarly, even as the Centre’s relief norms approve Rs 18,000 per hectare for irrigated area, the political parties have been demanding higher compensation.
In August, ahead of the state elections, then Fadnavis-led government had decided not to follow the Centre’s norms for crop losses suffered on account of floods in western Maharashtra, pegging the overall crop loss at Rs 2,088 crore. But the Centre is yet to announce the compensation from its side.
With the state Assembly in suspended animation, sources said the Governor may need to approach the Parliament for sanction to raise supplementary grants to meet the additional relief amount for the latest damage from the state corpus. Sources admitted that the official panchnamas to assess the damage have been slow. “We expect to complete the process in the coming few days,” said a senior official.
The administration, meanwhile, has instructed crop insurance companies to expedite claim settlement of insured farmers. Due to the massive extent of the damage, sources said insurance companies have agreed to consider the government’s panchnama reports for amount disbursal.
Meanwhile, sources also said that the Governor and Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta have set the order of preference for clearance of administrative files during President’s Rule. Departments have reportedly been asked to prioritise files regarding court matters, financial liabilities, and legislative matters. With the government formation eluding the state, a proposal to transfer quasi judicial powers of ministers to secretaries is under active consideration, sources added.