Shinde government announces ₹45,000-crore package for Marathwada region
Marathwada is a politically significant region, and the government has been on the backfoot here after the hunger strike by Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil
The Maharashtra government on Saturday declared a package of schemes worth ₹45,000 crore for the Marathwada region, which is currently reeling under a drought-like situation. Among these are 11 new irrigation projects worth ₹13,677 crore.
The government has also decided to launch three river-linking projects—Damanganga-Vaitarna-Godavari Valley, Damanganga (Ekdare)-Godavari and Par-Godavari—to transfer surplus water from the Damanganga and Vaitarna rivers to the deficit Upper Godavari basin at an estimated cost of ₹14,000 crore. The projects were announced by the Devendra Fadnavis government in 2019 but were not taken forward after a change in government that year. With the river-linking project, the government spend goes up to ₹59,000 crore.
The announcement was made after a special cabinet meeting held in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad) on Saturday. The meeting venue was chosen since the 75th anniversary of ‘Marathwada Liberation Day’, also known as Marathwada Mukti Sangram, is to be celebrated on September 17. Marathwada or today’s central Maharashtra region was under Nizam rule and was liberated and included in the Bombay Presidency in 1948 and later in Maharashtra in 1960.
Marathwada is a politically significant region, and the government has been on the backfoot here after the hunger strike by Maratha activist Manoj Jarange-Patil for reservation benefits for the community. Marathas comprise 32 percent of the state’s population and the police lathi charge on activists at the site of the strike backfired on the government. Ever since, it has been scrambling to placate the Marathas, especially given that Marathwada does not have any particular party dominating it. All prominent parties have a presence here, and the region could play a crucial role in a close contest.
Most districts in Marathwada are dependent on rainfed farming and are facing a drought-like situation this year. This is one of the major reasons for agrarian distress in the region which is also known for the second highest farmers’ suicides in the state. This drought-prone central Maharashtra region elects 46 legislators, and caste equations, emotive issues and religion often trump development.
The state government has also decided to revive the stalled Marathwada water grid project. “After the central government started the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ scheme, many states sought financial support for water grids except our government led by Uddhav ji,” deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told reporters. “He murdered the scheme. We have now requested the central government for support. A proposal has also been sent to the ministry of Jal Shakti.”
Chief minister Eknath Shinde added that his government worked for the people instead of making announcements. “We have approved revised administrative approvals of 35 irrigation projects in the last one year, which have paved the way for irrigating eight lakh hectares of land,” he said.
Fadnavis, who as chief minister announced a package of schemes worth ₹49,000 crore in the last cabinet meeting held in Aurangabad in October 2016, said that of the total 31 decisions, 23 were completed, seven were under way and the rest were scrapped by the erstwhile Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government.
The opposition parties have criticised the government for not declaring a drought in Marathwada. “Declaring a drought and providing immediate relief to the farmers was essential but the state government has played a cruel joke,” said Nana Patole, state Congress president. “The demand for water tankers and cattle feed is on the rise. The farmers need monetary assistance on an urgent basis. Around 168 farmers have died by suicide in Beed district in the last two months.”
Patole said the government’s claim that it had cleared projects worth ₹59,000 crores was merely a numbers game. “We will come to know the reality only when the people get actual relief,” he said.
No five-star hotel stay
Following criticism from opposition parties on booking rooms at star hotels for the special cabinet meeting, chief minister Eknath Shinde on Saturday said that they were not staying at five-star hotels but at the government guest house. Pointing out that opposition party members of the INDIA alliance stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai, he said, “Did they stay at a dharamshala? Over 100 rooms were booked for them at a 5-star hotel.”
Govt school adoption scheme
To improve the condition of government-run schools, the cabinet decided to start an adoption scheme under which schools can be adopted for a period of five to ten years by NGOs, corporates and individuals. Those who adopt a school will also be allowed to develop additional classrooms and repair and paint the buildings among other things.
Other decisions of the state cabinet
Establishing a mobile laboratory for embryo transplant in Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, a new government medical college at Hingoli, increasing the stipend of senior resident doctors to ₹85,000 per month, starting a new government agriculture college and a new agro business and management college at Parli Vaijnath, a new aided agriculture college at Soygaon, a new government agriculture college at Nanded, and developing an ITI incubation centre at Jalna.