Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi for increased central-government funding to tide over the state’s drought crisis.
In his meeting with Modi, Fadnavis gave a presentation of the various steps being undertaken by his government to help 28,000 drought-prone villages, apart from other long-term initiatives.
According to Fadnavis, Modi has been very receptive to the demands made by the state government. “The central government has already sanctioned Rs3,500 crore to the state, which is the highest till date. However, the drought has now increased to 11,000 more villages and hence we requested the Centre allow us to file a supplementary memorandum for more funds. This has also been agreed to,” said Fadnavis.
He said the government has planned steps for the next six weeks leading up to the monsoons and will also work on completing pending irrigation projects. “In the next six weeks, we will coordinate with the central government to prepare a joint action scheme, which will focus on maximum utilisation of rain water for agriculture. Our main aim is to reduce the dependence on rain for our crops,” he said.
Fadnavis also spoke of the funds he needed to implement various schemes like Rs20,000 crore for the 26 projects under the Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation scheme, Rs7,500 crore for some projects in drought-prone Vidarbha and Marathwada and Rs2,500 crore for some projects that could be completed in the next 2-3 years.
In addition, he announced various steps like restructuring loans of debt-hit farmers, getting 20 lakh farmers to opt for institutional finance, increasing the base for the crop insurance policy and also roping in the World Bank to fund an integrated plan for 4,000 villages.
Modi, meanwhile, assured Fadnavis of help to tide over the crisis, which has been made worse by an increase in the number of farmer suicides. Modi tweeted ‘CM @Dev_Fadnavis apprised me about the Jal Yukt Shivar Abhiyan & State Govt’s efforts to complete irrigation projects across the state.’
Maharashtra is facing with one of the worst droughts in its history with 29,610 (73%) of the 40,559 villages reeling under it. Apart from Marathwada and Vidarbha, even villages in Solapur and Ahmednagar, which fall in Western Maharashtra, have been added to the list. Latur city is being supplied drinking water through railway wagons.
Opposition parties have been very critical of the government’s handling of this issue. “There is no planning at all. After the failure of the monsoon last year, adequate precautions should have been taken, but the government has failed miserably,” said Ajit Pawar, former deputy chief minister and NCP leader. State Congress president Ashok Chavan also echoed the same sentiments. “People are migrating to the cities and unemployment has increased. Modi should actually come and see the situation,” said Chavan. Both Pawar and Chavan are on separate tours of drought-affected areas.
What is more worrying for all is the falling water stock in dams across the state. With the monsoon more than a month away, Marathwada is left with only 2% water. The number of water tankers has also gone up to 4,883.