Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan who tried to pacify the Opposition by announcing a Rs2,000-crore compensation package for farmers in distress found himself in a difficult situation on Thursday after his party legislators as well as state Congress president Manikrao Thakre disapproved of it.
They demanded an increase in the compensation amount even though the government does not have the funds.
In reply to a debate in the legislature, Chavan had on Wednesday announced a Rs2,000-crore compensation package for farmers growing cotton, paddy and soyabean because they were hit by irregular monsoon and fluctuating market prices. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena, however, rejected the package and sought a higher compensation. It even called for a Vidarbha bandh in protest.
On Thursday, it was the Congress legislators from Vidarbha and central Maharashtra who took an aggressive stand in the Assembly. Unhappy with the package, they want a compensation at the rate of Rs5,000 per hectare with a maximum limit of five hectares. This means each farmer would get a maximum Rs25,000 depending on the land holding. Under the current package, it is estimated that the farmers would be given Rs2,000 to Rs3,000 per hectare.
"We are not happy with the package announced by the CM. We want the government to announce Rs5,000 per hectare compensation for farmers," said Congress legislators Gopaldas Agarwal, Nilesh Parvekar, Yashomati Thakur and others. The legislators also said they would have no option but to stage protests against the government if their demand was not met.
State Congress president Manikrao Thakre also publicly supported the legislators' demand. This could put Chavan in a quandary. The state government is already under the debt of Rs2,76,000 crore. For paying Rs2,000 crore compensation, the government will have to cut funds allocated for various developmental works.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who heads the finance department, on Thursday made it clear that he would have to slash development funds and if the compensation package was to be increased further. He said might even have to cut the local area development fund given to the legislators. 'The government cannot afford to look after other developmental work," Pawar told the Assembly.
Reacting to the day's development, Chavan said he understood the legislators' feelings and the government would do what it can.
"We are in the process of working out the details so the amount of compensation per hectare is yet to be worked out. I understand the legislators' stand. They were expressing their feelings. We will come out with a package to address the farmers' demands," Chavan told the HT. Proceedings in both the houses of the legislature could not be completed because of the disruption caused by Opposition legislators over the issue.