The state government has, for the second time in a year, sought from the Centre Rs4,269-crore aid to tackle the drought that has affected more than 73% villages in Maharashtra, especially in Marathwada and Vidarbha.
For the first time in the state, 29,610 of the 40,559 villages are reeling under acute water scarcity. The depleting water stock, which has almost reached zero in most of the major water reservoirs in eight districts in Marathwada, is adding to the challenge of the cash-strapped Fadnavis government.
The package has been sought to provide relief such as cattle camps, crop loss compensation and supply water to the villages. “We want to extend help to 13,853 villages -- 11,862 from Vidarbha and 1,991 villages from Ahmednagar and Solapur – that have been added to the list of drought-hit areas in the past two months,” said a senior official from the state relief and rehabilitation department.
The move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured help to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis at a meeting to discuss the gravity of the drought situation, in New Delhi on May 7.
After declaring drought, the state started providing exemptions on land-related taxes, school and college examination fees, a discount of 33.5% on power bills of agriculture pump, restructuring of crop loans and stay on debt recovery to aggrieved farmers. Of the Rs4,269 crore, Rs1,269.73 crore has been sought to provide relief to 1,991 villages of western Maharashtra, Rs416.93 crore for water supply through tankers, railway wagons and waiving off power bills of farmers and Rs565 crore for government-run cattle camps. Around Rs2,017 crore has been sought to give relief to 11,863 villages in Vidarbha region, sources said.
In December 2015, the state had sought assistance of Rs4,002.83 crore, of which the Centre has approved Rs3,049 crore. So far, it has released Rs2,548 crore, said another official.
Eknath Khadse, relief and rehabilitation minister, confirmed the development.