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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Final decision on drought declaration before October 31: Maharashtra government tells HC

On Tuesday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavi declared a drought-like situation in 180 tehsils across 32 districts in the state. Maharashtra has 36 districts. A drought-like situation is usually declared in areas facing water scarcity.It is one step before the state declares drought, which it will do after studying the conditions on the ground.

pune Updated: Oct 26, 2018 14:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Pune
For a state to get financial assistance from the Centre’s National Disaster Relief Fund for the previous sowing season (in this case, Kharif 2018), it must officially declare drought by October 31.
For a state to get financial assistance from the Centre’s National Disaster Relief Fund for the previous sowing season (in this case, Kharif 2018), it must officially declare drought by October 31.(HT file photo )
         

The state government told the Bombay high court on Thursday that it will take a final decision about declaring drought in several parts of the state by October 31 — the deadline for the state if it wants relief funds from the National Disaster Relief Fund.

On Tuesday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavi declared a drought-like situation in 180 tehsils across 32 districts in the state. Maharashtra has 36 districts. A drought-like situation is usually declared in areas facing water scarcity.It is one step before the state declares drought, which it will do after studying the conditions on the ground.

On Thursday, the government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani told the division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Mahesh Sonak that revenue officials have conducted surveys to assess the amount of crop loss at the ground level, and that this information was now being collated in the districts. Vagyani said a final decision on declaring drought will be taken before the due date of October 31.

Vagyani was responding to a plea filed by activist Sanjay Lakhe-Patil, who was seeking a direction to the state government to declare drought before October 31. For a state to get financial assistance from the Centre’s National Disaster Relief Fund for the previous sowing season (in this case, Kharif 2018), it must officially declare drought by October 31, Lakhe-Patil’s advocate Ranjit Pawar told the court, referring to the 2016 Manual for Drought Management — an official guideline to declare drought.

Pawar said the state government was not following the guidelines laid down in the manual.

The bench, however, expressed doubt over whether it could issue an order, as prayed for by Lakhe Patil. “Can a writ court decide if the situation warrants declaration of drought or not?” the bench asked Pawar. The lawyer responded saying there was urgency in the matter as October 31 was the last date, and that the state will not get any financial assistance through the National Disaster Relief Fund if it misses the deadline.

The judges, however, refused to take up the issue and posted the plea for further hearing on October 31, in order to see what decision the state government takes.

In an affidavit filed by the state in response to Lakhe-Patil’s plea, during Kharif 2018 season, the state assessed and evaluated the drought situation on the basis of scientific indicators provided in the manual. It has identified 201 tehsils where trigger-1 — areas that got less than 50% of its average rainfall or experienced continuous dry spell for three to four weeks — had set in.

The affidavit added that on further assessment, the government found trigger-2 had set in 180 tehsils and on October 23, a drought-like situation was declared. These 180 blocks, according to the affidavit, are now entitled to exemption on land revenue, restructuring of crop loans, stopping recovery of farm loans, one-third subsidy in electricity bills for agricultural motor pumps, exemption in examination fee of students and supply of drinking water by tankers.

First Published: Oct 26, 2018 14:35 IST

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