2019 Lok Sabha elections: 10 constituencies from Maharashtra to vote today
Drought and acute water shortage are the common issues in all 10 constituencies from Maharashtra, six from Marathwada, three from Vidarbha and one from western MaharashtraUpdated: Apr 18, 2019, 00:40 IST
Bhagwat Pawar, a 75-year-old farmer of Wanewadi village, has stationed himself at a cattle camp at Ter village, about 4km from his village in Osmanabad district. His chana and jowar crops sown in kharif last monsoon sustained losses owing to dry spells, while rabi crops were out of question in the absence of a retreating monsoon. This is the worst-ever drought Pawar has witnessed in his life.
“I have seen the 1972 drought, when we had water, but no food to eat. In the recent droughts from 2012-14, there was water scarcity, but this is the worst of all. We all hold a good amount of land, but don’t have water to cultivate. We don’t know how we will sustain ourselves for the next two months until it rains,” he says.
Drought and acute water shortage are the common issues in all 10 constituencies from Maharashtra, six from Marathwada, three from Vidarbha and one from western Maharashtra, that go to polls in the second phase on April 18. While 90% villages in eight districts of Marathwada have been officially declared drought-hit, 60% of the villages in the three districts in Vidarbha (Akola, Amravati and Buldhana) are battling drought. Jalna, Parbhani, Latur, Osmanabad are the worst-hit districts of Marathwada and get tap water once every six-10 days. With water sources such as wells and farm wells drying up rapidly, villagers have to form long queues for a bucket of water from the well or government tankers. “We wake up at 4am to ensure we get maximum pots of water from the public borewell. We get a couple of handas (aluminium pots) after waiting for four-five hours,” said Anita Munjal, 45, from Mardi village in Jalna in central Maharashtra.
The Lok Sabha elections have coincided with drought. “The heat of the drought will intensify after April 29, once all phases are over. People are busy discussing elections, money is in circulation, cattle camps have been opened up and parties are ensuring that supply of water through tankers is sufficient. No party is talking about drought, as none of them has done anything significant,” said Ashok Tangade of Jagar Pratisthan, the NGO working for cane-cutters in Beed.
Pawar says he hasn’t decided whom to vote for and doesn’t think there is any difference between the previous and incumbent government. Along with dozens of villagers, Pawar attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally at Osmanabad last week. “Local leaders of the party got 15-seater vehicles and arranged for lunch after the rally. We attended the rally as we like the leader,” said Dagadu Shinde from Mohatarwadi, 10km from the Ter.
Some farm experts feel the ruling parties may feel the heat of drought. “Voters in rural areas are distressed. They have not seen sufficient money either to compensate for the crop loss or towards minimum support price. They don’t have the luxury of comparing the incumbent and previous governments before voting. The resentment is vented out through votes and it could go against the ruling parties,” said farm and irrigation expert from Nanded YR Jadhav, a former advisor for the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority.
According to the data available with the government, the state has disbursed more than ₹18,500 crore to about 43 lakh farmers over the past one-and-a-half years. It has deposited the first installment of ₹2,000 from the PM Kisan Sanman scheme in the accounts of more than 25 lakh farmers and credited drought relief compensation of ₹4,412 crore in the accounts of farmers in the past two months. Some feel the grants, relief packages, loan waiver and crop insurance in the past two years will have a positive impact on farmers. “Farmers have received sizable amounts in their accounts. We have 15 acres of semi-irrigated land in the name of four family members. We received ₹3 lakh over the past few months, including ₹95,000 towards loan waiver,” said Motichand Bedmutha, a political analyst from Marathwada.
Another Vidarbha-based farm expert Vijay Jawandhiya feels most of the elections are fought on the basis of caste and creed, and not the real issues. “There is discontent among farmers and people in rural areas over crop loss, absence of minimum support price, inflation, rising unemployment, but voting is done in the name of castes,” he said.