With the Centre refusing to give funds for relief to farmers hit by unseasonal rain in several parts of the state recently, a helpless state government on Wednesday asked legislators to give up their local area development fund of Rs2 crore for one year.
The cash-strapped government said MLAs from the treasury benches were ready to relinquish the fund and it is for the Opposition to decide if their members were ready to do the same.
Replying to a debate on the agrarian crisis in the Assembly on Wednesday, agriculture and revenue minister Eknath Khadse said the Centre has expressed its inability to provide any financial help to the farmers. Assistance was denied because the calamity did not fit the Centre’s parameters for releasing funds for compensation.
According to primary estimates, the loss to crops and horticulture because of unseasonal rain earlier this month is Rs1,000 crore. But because the rainfall was not more than 65mm a day and the loss was not more than 50%, the Centre said it could not help.
To make matters worse, a high-powered committee of Union ministers has still not taken a decision on the state’s previous demand for Rs6,013 crore aid to farmers hit by hailstorm and drought in 2014 and earlier this year. The committee, after its meeting on Tuesday, asked the state to submit a revised memorandum for the aid, adding to the government’s woes.
Khadse, while pointing out the state will now have to make financial provisions from its own coffers, appealed to members of the Assembly to give up the local development fund for a year. He said it was not a secret that the state was debt-ridden and the government had no money to spend. “We will not borrow money from the open market to offer respite to farmers in despair. Even the MLAs should be ready to spare their development fund and at times even the salary they draw. MLAs from the ruling parties are ready to give up the fund for a year, it is time for the Opposition to come forward,” he said.
The leaders of Opposition said they were ready to spare one year’s fund.
So far, of the Rs7,000 crore relief announced by the state in the winter session — for farmers affected by the drought and hailstorm last year — it has released Rs4,200 crore from its own pocket.
Khadse said 78% of the 90 lakh farmers affected have received the relief and the remaining amount would be credited to the accounts of the beneficiaries at the earliest. Khadse said his department has also planned an insurance of Rs2 lakh to farmers committing suicide.