Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan led the state delegation’s pitch for a drought package to the tune of Rs 3,572 crore and a separate fund of Rs 2,372 crore for incomplete irrigation projects.
However, he failed to convince the central team of ministers, failing to fit the criteria laid down for drought-relief packages.
Senior ministers in the group, including finance minister P Chidambaram, asked the state-led delegation to change track and seek funds by petitioning different ministries for mitigation measures.
The chief minister’s petition to the Prime Minister on Saturday, however, may yield positive result although it is unsure if this fund can be created within the next two months to rescue the drought-prone talukas of the state.
The state is expected to have a meeting with the Planning Commission officials for this soon.
A major portion of the drought package of Rs 3,572 crore includes drought mitigation measures like building cement check dams, recharging of ground water, accelerated fodder generation programme — schemes which have to be implemented in the next two months to avoid the cascading effect of drought in at least one-third of the state.
The state expects drinking water situation to worsen by November unless measures are taken to save water.
However, the Centre’s existing mechanism for drought relief are more focused on relief measures like drinking water schemes, employment guarantee schemes, loan waivers etc, which will be announced after the state assesses actual crop losses and a central team visits the state.
“We changed our strategy from relief to mitigation to tackle the drought-like situation, by assessing areas under drought on basis of rainfall instead of crop losses as mentioned in the drought relief manual released by the centre last year. Unfortunately, the relief continues to be linked to actual announcement of drought done through crop losses estimation,” said a senior official, who was part of the team.
He added that a team from the centre would come soon to the state to assess the drought and then a formal package would be announced.
He also ruled out sending a revised proposal to the centre, saying it’s not possible to revise situation on the ground.
State government officials admitted that relief is unlikely to come early, pointing out that some of the relief promised as drought relief last year had only come this year.