Under fire, Maharashtra government to compensate farmers from its own kitty
To ease the discontent among farmers who have a lot to be unhappy about, including the loan waiver delays, no compensation yet for the losses suffered after a pink bollworm attack four months ago and the humiliating methods used to assess losses owing to unexpected hailstorm, the government on Thursday decided to quickly release the first phase of the funds to compensate the farmers.
The unexpected delay in assistance by the Central government under the National Disaster Relief Fund, has compelled the state cabinet to take the decision to release funds with immediate effect.
Agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar said they were issuing a government resolution (GR) and the funds will be immediately released to district collectors for disbursement. The issue of delay in paying compensation was discussed in the state cabinet on Thursday.
Medha Gadgil, addiational chief secretary, relief and rehabilitation department, said the GR will be issued by Friday.
According to preliminary estimates, Nagpur, Amravati and Marathwada divisions incurred losses ranging between Rs500 crore and Rs700 crore each after the pest attack.
The government is expected to release more than Rs1,000 crore in the first phase in anticipation of the reimbursement from the Centre.
The state government has been targeted by farmers, their organisations and the opposition alike for the delay in extending compensation.
The government was also left red-faced after field-level officials made farmers hold slates while photographing them for crop-loss assessment owing to hailstorms.
The state government had announced it would assist farmers with Rs30,600 a hectare towards the loss of crops due to the pest attack. Besides the claims from the seed companies and crop insurance, the state had sought Rs2,430 crore from the Centre under NDRF. Of the 30,600 a hectare, Rs6,800 had to come from the NDRF, Rs8,000 from insurance cover and Rs1,600 as claims from the seeds companies.
In reply to the memorandum by the state government, the Centre has asked to submit the data of the farmers who have suffered the crop loss of more than 50%. The state has submitted the statistics of the farmers with losses of more than 33%, as per NDRF norms. But with the additional information sought by the Centre, the officials from the relief and rehabilitation department feel the Centre may ask the State to bear the burden of the financial assistance to the farmers with losses between 33 and 50%.
“According to NDRF norms, farmers with more than 33% loss are entitled for compensation as per the standing norms. But the Centre is now hinting at implementing the new drought manual, which requires the loss to be 50% for the relief fund. Although no such clear intimation has been received from them, it appears the Centre expects the state to shoulder the major burden. The number of farmers with losses of more than 50% is very limited and most of them range between 33% to 50%, which means major burden will have to be borne by the State, if the Centre denies the package,” said an official from the department.
Of the 41 lakh hectare of the land under cultivation of cotton, more than 35 lakh hectares was affected due to the pink bollworm.