Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced on Wednesday that another 5,700 villages will be added to the list of drought-affected villages in Maharashtra.
The state had earlier declared 19,059 villages as drought-affected. The latest addition takes the number of drought-hit villages in Maharashtra to more than 24,700.
Speaking in the assembly, Fadnavis said the decision to add these villages to the list was based on recommendations from a high-level Central Fact Finding Committee. The panel had toured 14 districts across the state over the past three days to assess the drought situation.
Last week, following Opposition pressure, the government had declared urgent relief to farmers mainly in Marathwada and Vidarbha, where inadequate and untimely rain severely damaged main cash crops such as cotton, soyabean and paddy. It had announced a Rs 7,500-crore relief package for drought-hit villages spread over 50 lakh hectares.
The chief minister said that the Central team, led by the additional secretary Pravesh Sharma, had endorsed the state’s claims that the crops were devastated at places they visited and that the farmers were greatly distressed.
The high-level team admitted the current situation was worse than the 2012 drought in the state. Sharma asked the state to submit a revised memorandum seeking Central assistance. The central government had already accepted the state’s earlier memorandum, seeking Rs 3,925 crore for relief purposes.
The Central team also said the state could avail of additional relief as more villages were now found to be reeling under drought.
“I have requested the central government to add 5,700 more villages to the list of 19,000 villages affected by drought. A fresh memorandum of demands will be submitted to the committee soon,” he said.
The people of 24,400 affected villages will be provided with drinking water, fodder for cattle and foodgrain at cheaper rates, he said. The committee has acknowledged the seriousness of the drought situation and the destruction caused by hailstorms as very serious, Fadnavis said.
LBT to be scrapped soon
Revenue minister Eknath Khadse on Wednesday announced that the state would scrap the local body tax (LBT) before the next financial year.
During a debate in the legislative council, Khadse said that LBT would not be applicable from April 2015 at any cost. “We are coming out with an alternative tax soon and will abolish LBT,” he said.
LBT has been vehemently opposed by traders and the BJP had vowed to scrap it.
However, given that the state is reeling under a debt of Rs 3.44 lakh crore, losing out revenue of Rs 14,500 crore annually got through LBT and octroi is not feasible and the government has been trying to find an alternative tax.