At least one-fifth of Maharashtra -- 69 of the 355 talukas – are facing a drought-like situation, which might worsen if it doesn’t rain over the next few days, according to the data in a recently released state review.
The number of scarcity-hit regions was announced on Monday, on the basis of the assessment of crop damage, rain received since June and other factors conducted by collectors and divisional commissioners. Taking note of the review, the Cabinet on Monday gave its nod to a slew of socio-economic welfare schemes aimed at providing relief to scarcity-hit areas, even as ally Shiv Sena is building up pressure to declare a drought in the state.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is slated to begin a two-day tour of the drought-affected districts of Aurangabad and Beed on September 11. According to sources, the Sena ministers pushed for declaration of drought in Monday’s Cabinet meet, but the state wants to wait for reports from the local administration.
Generally, a drought is announced towards the end of the monsoon, which is by mid-September. After announcing a drought, the government has to declare a relief package according to the national manual, which includes measures such as waiving off interest on loans and electricity bills, staying repayment of loans taken by farmers and cash relief, among others.
Meanwhile, the state has announced some relief measures including a fee waiver for students till Class 12 and a 50% subsidy for professional courses such as medicine and engineering for children of farmers with an annual income of less than Rs2.5 lakh.
The government is also planning a social security net for the state’s 1.35 lakh farmers. “We have planned an accident insurance cover of Rs2 lakh for each farmer in case of death or disability because of accidents. The state will pay the premiums,” said state revenue minister Eknath Khadse.
Khadse said the government was also planning a life insurance cover for farmers, which would also cover suicides.
The state government, as reported earlier, has now formed a sub-committee to change the ‘Paisewari’ system, a method of calculating the crop yield. “We are trying to get in a more scientific way to decide the areas reeling under drought, so all affected regions are covered and relief is provided soon,” Khadse said.