Mumbai: The drought situation in Maharashtra is worsening. The state government on Wednesday announced drought in 1,053 villages of Ahmednagar and Solapur districts of Maharashtra. With this, the total number of villages affected by drought has risen to 16,800.
“Considering the situation, the state government decided to announce drought in 1,053 villages of Ahmednagar (408 villages) and Solapur (645 villages) district,’’ revenue minister Eknath Khadse said, while declaring drought in the legislative council.
As a relief, the aggrieved farmers in affected villages will now get several exemptions from the government. This includes exemption from the payment of land-related revenue, school examination fees, a discount of 33.5% on power bills of agriculture pump, restructuring of crop loans and a stay on debt recovery, the minister said.
The decision was taken in the state cabinet meeting held on Tuesday evening.
“Until today, no government has given any aid to Rabi crops. But we have decided to provide them drought relief of Rs250 crore. From today onwards, the affected farmers of two districts have started getting relief,” Khadse told HT. The 15,747 drought-hit villages are only for Kharif crops, he clarified.
In his 40-minute speech, governor CH Vidyasagar Rao informed the joint session of the state legislature about the drought mitigation measures his government has taken over the past sixteen months. He said his government has disbursed Rs2,536 crore to drought-affected farmers in 15,757 villages. “We have waived off three-months interest on crop loans of the farmers affected by drought and have also decided to restructure crop loans worth Rs3,500 crore, which has benefited nearly 5.5 lakh farmers. District banks in Akola, Washim, Amravati and Chandrapur were able to extend fresh crop loans of Rs405 crore to nearly 1.16 farmers whose loans were restructured.”
However, the water storage percentage has also been decreasing, according to data released by the government on February 26. According to the figures, only 28% of water is left in various dams of the state. This number was 48% in 2015 and 53% in 2014.
The situation is going to get worse in the coming days, said a senior official from the irrigation department. Marathwada, the worst-affected region, has only 6% water left in its reservoirs.
Taking an aggressive stand on the issue, Dhananjay Munde, leader of Opposition, demanded a condolence motion be moved in the council for farmers who have committed suicide. “In the past one year, more than 3,500 farmers committed suicide owing to drought, crop failure and indebtedness. A condolence motion should be moved in the House for them too,” he said.