Maharashtra government announces ₹10,000-crore relief for farmers and infra damages after cyclone, unseasonal rain
Maharashtra government on Friday announced a relief package of ₹10,000 crore for farmers from Konkan affected by Nisarga Cyclone in June, and those from eastern Vidarbha hit by unseasonal rain in August, and to rebuild infrastructure damaged across the state owing to the multiple natural calamities.
The announcement came after chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, his cabinet colleagues, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis made separate visits to the affected districts earlier this week.
According to estimates, more than 10.5 lakh hectares under cultivation was affected across 10 districts in central and western Maharashtra owing to the unseasonal rain and retreating spell of monsoon over the past fortnight.
Farmers had demanded an immediate relief, without waiting for Central assistance and administrative formalities to be completed. Solapur, Sangli and Satara in western Maharashtra and Osmanabad, Latur, Beed and Parbhani in central Maharashtra have suffered maximum losses.
After a review meeting with his senior cabinet colleagues on Friday, Thackeray announced the relief package, of which ₹5,500 crore is expected to go directly into the hands of farmers in the form of ex-gratia for losses of crops, livestock, horticulture, human lives and housing structures.
The rest will be used to rebuild roads, government properties, and spruce up water supply schemes, among other infrastructure requirements.
Thackeray, meanwhile, slammed the Central government and said had it released state dues of ₹38,000 crore towards Good and Services Tax (GST) compensation, devolution of taxes and relief packages, the Maharashtra government could have been in a position to increase the relief package amount.
“The Centre has not released a penny as yet, against our two memorandum of Rs1,065.58 crore and Rs814 crore demanded against the relief from losses due to Cyclone Nisarg and unseasonal rain in eastern Vidarbha. The Centre has not yet sent its team for assessment of the losses in the past two weeks despite repeated reminders,” he said.
Fadnavis termed the package a “sham”. “The relief is too little against the losses… Thackeray has retracted on his own words and has given baseless reasons. Before coming to power, he had demanded a relief of Rs25,000 to Rs1 lakh a hectare for the losses last year. The figures from the relief package are regular allocation from the budget. It is just hogwash by the Thackeray government,” he said.
The CM said, before coming to power, he had demanded relief of Rs25,000 a hectare for farmers who had suffered crop losses, but the current Covid-19 induced financial crisis has restrained him from announcing it. “I had demanded a compensation to the tune of Rs25,000 a hectare, but in view of the Covid-19 pandemic and outstanding [money] with the Centre, we are unable to offer it. The package announced today [on Friday] is the largest-ever given for a natural calamity in the state. We have increased the relief amount to Rs10,000 a hectare for crop losses on irrigated and non-irrigated land and Rs25,000 a hectare for horticultural crops from an amount ranging between Rs6,800 and Rs25,000. We will do whatever is required for farmers and will borrow if the need be,” he said.
The CM also said the administration has been directed to ensure that the relief reaches the affected farmers before Diwali. He said spot assessment of losses will be completed in the next two days. He said the government has spent Rs30,800 crore on natural calamities and other calamities such as Covid-19 in the past year.
Ajit Nawale, sate general secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, said the relief would not even help the farmer to recover their input cost. “The losses are massive and the relief announced is too little,” he said.