Even as the drought situation in the state is worsening with every passing day–the dam reservoirs have only 19% of their total stock and the monsoon is at least a month away–the state Cabinet is divided over offering monetary relief to affected areas.
Giving the issue a political colour, many ministers wanted the government to give monetary help to the tehsils that did not make it to the list of beneficiaries on Wednesday. Only 15 tehsils in western Maharashtra find themselves in this list, and have been allotted Rs.10 crore each. These tehsils are from the home districts of influential ministers like Prithviraj Chavan, chief minister, Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minster, Patangrao Kadam, relief minister, R R Patil, home minister, and Jayant Patil, rural development minister.
Ministers from northern Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha felt that several tehsils from their regions would face even more serious problems if they were not given proper aid soon and if the monsoon were to set in late this year. Senior minister Chhagan Bhujbal is reported to have asked for at least Rs2 crore for each tehsil. Many ministers supported his demand, but their requests fell on deaf ears.
The chief minister justified the grant for the 15 tehsils. “There’s no regional politics in it. Since these places have the lowest ground water level, the money will be used to build concrete bunds on nullahs,” he said.
However, the aggrieved ministers did not agree. “Can these 15 tehsils spend Rs10 crore each before the monsoon arrives next month?” a minister, who did not wish to be named, asked HT after the Cabinet meeting. “Every affected region should get equal treatment.”
If stocks in the dam reservoirs are taken into account, revenue divisions of Nasik (14%), Aurangabad (10%), Pune (10%) and Amravati (18%) find themselves in deep trouble.