The Marathwada region, which is fighting a crippling drought, is now officially the driest region of the country. India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s latest figures indicate how the region has the highest rainfall deficit, touching 51%. To combat this, the state is now gearing up to announce a bigger cut in the water supply to industries in the region from the 10% cut it announced a month ago.
The state has started preparing estimates for the cost of a relief plan to the empty exchequers for the drought-affected areas. Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said state was also mulling over changes in its employment guarantee scheme to ensure more work for drought-affected farmers.
This happened on a day when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, with a handful of ministers and senior officials left for a three-day tour of Marathwada. By Tuesday, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray also announced his plans to tour the drought-affected region.
According to sources in the party, Thackeray along with Sena ministers will be touring Aurangabad and Beed district starting September 11. Thackeray also instructed his ministers to personally tour these districts and ensure relief reaches these areas. Accordingly, transport minister Diwakar Raote left for Parbhani and Nanded.
“We will hold food, fodder distribution programmes as well as create awareness around watershed management,” said industries minister and senior Sena leader Subhash Desai.
Leader of Opposition in the assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, meanwhile, asked for a special session of the legislature to discuss the slow pace of the government’s relief work.
Facing flak from the Opposition, Fadnavis on Tuesday said that the state will not wait for Centre’s relief aid to arrive. “If the need be, we will take a loan to fund our relief programme. We have already released Rs86 crore to ensure water supply to the drought-affected districts,” said Fadnavis.
Water resources minister Girish Mahajan said that the state was planning to impose fresh curbs on industrial and agricultural use of water. “The situation in Marathwada is critical. We are planning to impose curbs on water in other areas as we will need to use this water for areas which face scarcity,” said Mahajan.