Keeping its promise that 25% of this year’s annual budget would be spent on creating infrastructure to resolve the water scarcity problem in the long term, the state government on Wednesday allocated about Rs11,500 crore to its water-related departments. It also increased tax on gold, silver, diamond, precious metal and jewellery to 1.10%, and raised sugarcane purchase tax to 5% for a year to generate funds for drought mitigation.
But Opposition leaders and farm activists said the provisions are insufficient and the state and Centre need to spend more to tackle the situation.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the allocation has been given to the agriculture department and allied sectors such as the water resources department that builds dams and canals, the water conservation department, and the water supply department. In addition, Rs850 crore has been earmarked for supplying water, Rs186 crore for fodder supply and Rs1,050 crore would go towards the state’s contribution to the national calamity response fund, the CM said.
Pawar said sugarcane farmers were subjected to the additional levy because they used 70% of the state’s water available for irrigation. However, the farmers would not pay the tax when their produce is used for generating power. Pawar said the state would be harsh on defaulters and would not allow part payments. “Our experience has not been very good with this sector. Most of them did not even pay the 3% tax that was levied earlier,” he said.
Opposition leaders and farm activists termed the outlay a smart ploy. “This isn’t a new provision as the total allocation to these departments is close to 25% of the budget every year. They have increased it by just Rs1,000 crore or so, and it will not suffice for long-term solutions,” said Devendra Fadnavis, a BJP legislator.
“There is no drinking water in 6,000 villages whereas around 12,000 villages are facing water shortage. Asking Rs27,000 crore relief from Centre but receiving only Rs780 crore [the Centre has approved Rs1,207 crore drought aid], and now with this budgetary provision, is peanuts to handle the drought crisis,” Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti said.