Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Wednesday announced a special package of Rs10,512 crore for drought-hit farmers in Maharashtra, but rejected the Opposition’s demand to announce a loan waiver.
The package includes aid of Rs7,412 crore to affected farmers in 15,747 villages (Rs2800 crore in the form of crop insurance to farmers and Rs1,034 crore aid to those who have not insured their crops), Rs100 crore compensation to paddy farmers at Rs200 a quintal, Rs1,000 crore Jalyukta Shivar water conservation scheme, Rs250 crore for building farm ponds, Rs750 crore to build 33,000 wells and Rs1,000 crore to give electricity connections for water pumps.
In his hour-long reply to the debate on drought in the state and resultant agrarian crisis, Fadnavis said the situation in the state could get worse after January. The available water stock is 47%, against last year’s 62%. Marathwada region, which is worst-affected, has only 13% water in dams and lakes.
He said the government would take necessary steps to provide immediate relief to the people affected by drought. Fadnavis attributed the problem to climate change. “The days of rainfall are reducing. The dry spell in the monsoon was 40-day long.”
Fadnavis said farmer suicides could not be stopped with loan waivers. “In 2008, the Congress government waived loans, but in 2010, 1,068 farmers committed suicides. Neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh waived off loans, but the problem has not ended there,” he said.
He said only 40-42% farmers in the state take loan through institutional credit network and every district has 3-4lakh farmers who take agricultural loan from sources such as moneylenders. “The government has been taking efforts to bring maximum farmers under the institutional credit network,” he said. The government has, so far, repaid loans of 19,719 farmers, who had borrowed from moneylenders, but 79,000 applications are pending because of legal difficulties.
Fadnavis also said increasing investment in agriculture, making farmers capable and ensuring that a majority of farmers opt for crop insurance would be the best way to tackle situations such as drought. He spoke at length about the need to invest more in water conservation measures to ensure availability of water even in case of scanty rainfall.
“The government built water conservation infrastructure in 6,200 villages and the same work would be taken up in 5,000 villages now. Besides, we have decided to facilitate construction of farm ponds for farmers who demand it,” he said.
He said the number of farmers opting for crop insurance to get compensation in the event of loss of crop has increased considerably. This year, 82 lakh farmers took crop insurance, against 58 lakh last year, he said.
The Congress-led Opposition demanded loan waiver for drought-affected farmers. “You have money to scrap local body tax which will benefit traders and toll tax which will benefit contractors, but you don’t have money for farmers? About 3,000 farmers have committed suicide because of the agrarian crisis,” alleged Opposition Leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. Not happy with Fadnavis’ reply to the debate, the Opposition members staged a walkout in the Assembly.