The state government will declare 938 more villages drought-affected in the coming days. These are villages in which rabi crops (those sown in winter) have been ruined.
The government has already said that 28,762 of the state’s 40,559 villages have been hit by the drought, including 1,053 that grow rabi crops. The addition of the 938 will take the total number of drought-affected villages to 29,700, including 1,991 that grow rabi crops.
According to a source in the government, the 938 villages are in Solapur and Ahmednagar districts. Crops that are grown during the monsoon season are called kharif crops while those grown during the winter season (October-March) are called rabi crops.
Revenue minister Eknath Khadse said on Thursday that villages with rabi crops have also been affected by the drought this time, and that based on fresh reports from districts, more villages will be declared drought-affected soon. He, however, did not disclosed exactly how many.
The state government also reviewed preparations for the kharif season at a meeting chaired by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday.
After the meeting, Khadse said that this year, crops will be sown on around 1.50 lakh hectares of land and that the government expects a total crop production of around 1.62 lakh metric tonnes.
The government has started its preparations as the meteorological department has forecast an early monsoon this year.
Khadse also reacted to remarks by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who defended the planting of water-guzzling sugarcane despite the drought. Pawar had said on Wednesday that though sugarcane is in the spotlight because of the drought, the crop has sustained and transformed the entire rural economy.
Khadse said Pawar must be speaking from experience, but added that in such a situation, planning and water management is a must.
“No one can deny the fact that if sugar mills in drought-hit Latur, Beed and Osmanabad had used water sparingly, the state government would have had to deploy fewer tankers,” Khadse said.
Currently, 3,351 villages across Maharashtra have no sources of drinking water and are being supplied water by 4,356 tankers, according to data released by the relief and rehabilitation department last week.