For the state’s distressed framers, struggling with drought, erratic weather, and negative growth, a lot rides on Monday’s state budget.
Topping their wish list is increased financial aid from the government, with focus on increasing increasing food security.
Speaking to HT on the eve of the state budget, Kishor Tiwari, president of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, said that finance minister Ajit Pawar should look at the reasons, other than poor rainfall, for the state’s negative growth in farming. As per state economic survey, agriculture and allied activities has shown a negative growth of 5.1 per cent against a growth of 15.6 per cent in 2010-11.
Highlighting the uneven growth pattern, he said: “While some districts in western Maharashtra have registered a growth rate of more than 10%, districts in Marathwada and Vidarbha have slipped to minus 15%. The minister must explain this,” said Tiwari, adding that wrong policies and corruption were at the the root of the agrarian crisis.
While the sector is vying for increased attention from the centre and the state, activists claim corruption and malpractices ensure that the benefit from schemes in place doesn't always reach the intended beneficiaries.
In Vidarbha, which made national headlines with a spate of farmer suicides, Marathwada and Khandesh, irrigation has been a major concern. The ratio of the gross irrigated area to the gross cropped area (total land under cultivation) in the state is one third of the national ratio of 45.3.
Tiwari alleged that money granted for irrigation, along with other farmers’ packages, did not suffice.
“On paper, the state started irrigation works worth Rs 50,000 cr, but it doesn’t have money to push these projects through. The money granted does not reach the beneficiaries because of rampant corruption,” he said.
Last week, the Opposition slammed the government, claiming that the Rs2,000 crore project for the special package for bad crop assistance, promised in December 2011, had not been provided.
Farm activist Vijay Jawandhia said that subsidies or assistance should go directly to farmers. “It’s high time the state did away with agencies and helped farmers directly.”
Pratap Hogade, who fights for farmers’ cause in the power sector, said that the state must give uninterrupted power to farmers.