Allegations flew thick and fast at the state cabinet meeting on Wednesday, with ministers from Vidarbha and Marathwada claiming that funds meant for drought mitigation were not reaching affected areas and were instead being diverted to districts in western Maharashtra, especially to the politically-influential Sangli, Satara and Solapur.
Public works minister Jaidutt Kshirsagar, employment guarantee scheme minister Nitin Raut, higher and technical education minister Rajesh Tope and animal husbandry minister Madhukarrao Chavan slammed the relief and rehabilitation department for the disparity in the distribution of funds.
Kshirsagar complained that Beed had only 5 cattle camps even though the district was badly hit by water scarcity this year. Chavan and Tope, both from Marathwada also complained that relief work was held up because of lack funds.
The disagreement also saw a worked-up rehabilitation minister Patangrao Kadam, who hails from Sangli, say the sub-committee on drought (which he heads) should be disbanded.
Kadam rubbished claims of favouritism though, pointing out that funds were being disbursed as demanded by district collectors and all officials had reported that they had adequate funds.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had to intervene to put an end to the bickering.
In the face of the severe water scarcity in 13 districts in the state, the cabinet also withheld 21 industrial proposals demanding fresh water supply. All new industry proposals will also be kept on hold for the time being.
The proposal to sanction water supply to 21 industrial projects had been mooted by water resources department minister Sunil Tatkare. A majority of the proposals were from drought-hit areas. Faced with opposition, Tatkare said the government would have to take a call on the source of water for these units.
“Fighting has become a regular feature in the cabinet. The NCP and Congress are constantly at loggerheads and chief minister Chavan has not yet been successful in dictating the tone of the cabinet,” said a senior minister, on condition of anonymity.