Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who toured the state’s drought-prone districts this week, told HT that the scarcity-like situation in many districts, spanning North Maharashtra, Western Maharashtra and Marathwada, could lead to a crisis unless the state took corrective action.
“Water tables have been depleted in many districts and there is acute shortage of drinking water. Even after one presses in services of hundred tankers per district, the system is not foolproof. There is also the grave issue of water and fodder for cattle,” said Pawar.
He said he witnessed farmers feeding cattle on sugarcane stalks, after all else failed. “Also, farmers in most of these districts rely only on the rabi crop, which failed.” He said the situation was worse in the talukas of Satara and Sangli.
During the telephonic conversation with HT, Pawar also pointed out that he did not have any complaints against chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. “We have been in touch regularly. He (Chavan) is taking steps to address the problem. But, the governor failed to see the gravity of the situation,” said Pawar.
Pawar had reportedly informed the governor of the scenario a month ago with a request to undertake a tour of the state. The governor, however, did not do so and announced the irrigation allocation for the year, strictly by the norms.
Pawar’s critics said the Maratha strongman, hailing from Western Maharashtra, was playing regional politics as the allocation was skewed against his home turf in favour of Vidarbha and Marathwada.
However, sources close to Pawar said he expected the governor to make an exception by providing more allocation for drought-prone regions for drinking water and water for farms. Pawar said: “Five years ago, when a similar situation arose, the then governor toured the state and made allocation accordingly.”