The Maharashtra government, which was under attack by the Opposition on the meagre rate of raw cotton in the winter session of the state legislature, has finally come out with a relief package of Rs 1,500 for every hectare to the cotton growers in the state.
Announcing this in the Assembly on Friday, Maharashtra minister for Marketing Harshavardhan Patil, however, said that the financial assistance would be restricted up to two hectare only and it would be implemented in all the cotton growing areas in the state.
With this, the government has to bear an additional burden of Rs 500 crore, he added.
However, the state government had turned down the proposal to hike the rate of cotton, citing the present financial crunch. Patil informed that the cotton federation had already purchased 8.25 lakh quintal cotton while private traders procured 50 lakh quintal so far.
In Maharashtra, cotton is procured from farmers from Rs 1600 to 1990 per quintal depending upon the varieties, by the cotton cooperative marketing federation. Vidarbha grows a variety that fetches an average Rs 1735 per quintal. The rate of raw cotton was Rs 2,500 per quintal in 2004, which was slashed down to Rs 1900 in 2005.
The opposition leaders and farmers organisations had insisted that the government should give at least Rs 2,700 support price in view of hardship of the farmers in the region.
Over 1,200 farmers, mostly cotton-growers in Vidarbha, have ended their lives since June last year because of debts, crop failure and not getting remunerative price of their raw cotton.
While making a statement on the financial assistance to the cotton growers, the minister assured that the cotton marketing federation would procure all the raw cotton from the farmers. "We have already set up 206 procurement centers in the state. If needed 100 more centers would be opened," Patil said.