More taxes to fund drought relief?

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2015 00:52 IST

The state government, battling one of the worst droughts Marathwada has seen, may end up imposing more taxes on you to generate more funds.

The state is mulling levying a surcharge on the public, as contribution to a relief fund for areas affected by the deficient monsoon. The Opposition Congress slammed it, pointing out how the government was willing to spend hundreds of crores in concessions while scrapping the local body tax.

The surcharge option was discussed on Tuesday during a cabinet sub-committee meeting on drought mitigation, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said.

Areas such as Latur, Osmanabad and Beed in Marathwada or central Maharashtra are the worst-hit, with more than 1,300 villages getting drinking water through tankers. The dams in the region have just 7% water stock left.

While a central government team visited the state’s drought-hit areas, Mungantiwar said no specific amount has been put forth as aid to tackle the situation.

“We have decided to put in the amount required, through state funds, to tackle this crisis. If the need arises, we will raise funds by putting a surcharge on the public,” he said.

However, how much that amount will be has not been worked out yet. The government said it will bring in the rule if the situation gets worse.

The committee also chalked out plans to ensure better drinking water supply, and measures to improve fodder availability. These include using train wagons to supply water, using open spaces owned by the state to grow fodder and using new technology to augment fodder supply (see box).

“The range for water tankers will be increased from 50km to 100km. Trains will carry drinking water from Pandharpur to Latur,” said Eknath Khadse, relief and rehabilitation minister. Khadse added that the state is trying to bring in a technology called hydroponic fodder development, where plants can be grown in 10 days.

The state Congress unit president Ashok Chavan hit out at the government, saying poor planning. “It is ridiculous for a government willing to pay for toll concessions and LBT to tax common people for drought funds.”

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