In a major boost to the drought-relief work, the high-level committee for Central assistance to states affected by natural calamity allotted Rs 778.09 crore to Maharashtra on Thursday.
For the last two years, central Maharashtra and some parts of the western and northern region have been hit by drought situation. Scanty rainfall has affected the kharif and rabi seasons in 2011 and the kharif crop in 2012. Farmers fear that the water scarcity could affect the rabi season this year too.
The committee, which has Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar as the chairman, took the decision at a meeting in New Delhi. The members of the committee include home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, finance minister P Chidambaram and deputy chairman of planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
According to a press statement issued by the Press Information Bureau, an inter-ministerial Central team led by Union joint secretary RB Sinha had visited the state in November 2012 to assess the drought situation and submit its recommendation to the Centre.
While the state government had initially declared drought situation in 122 tehsils in 25 districts, the figure was subsequently revised to 125 tehsils in 16 districts. The government had also sought help from the Centre’s National Disaster Response Fund.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has asked the Centre for Rs 2,200 crore to ensure water supply in the dry lands that face scarcity every year. “The state has so far provided Rs 414 crore for water supply, but it needs more money to take temporary and permanent measures,” said Chavan.
Chavan met a group of legislators from central Maharashtra on Wednesday and assured them to visit the affected areas soon. He has asked the state administration to prepare an action plan including the assessment report on the water stock in the reservoirs of affected areas.
“The water scarcity in 14 districts in central, western and northern Maharashtra is very acute. In these areas, we will only provide drinking water,” said Chavan.
Tanker water is provided to 966 villages in the affected districts. On Wednesday, the state Cabinet approved a proposal to provide Rs2 crore each to every drought-hit district for emergency measures.