Amravati: Blaming the previous NCP-Congress dispensation for the plight of farmers, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today advised the farmers to adopt new farming methods and vowed not to rest till a positive change is brought in their lives.

Inaugurating a national festival on agriculture and orange here this afternoon, Fadnavis asked, "Why has our farmer become a pleader?" He then himself replied "it was because he did not resort to change, did not adopt modern technology and did not experiment."

"If our farmer is to be affluent again, this must change. Unless the traditional farming is blended with modern technology, the lot of farmers will not improve," he said. Attacking the Congress and NCP for "exploiting" farmers during their 15-year rule, he said they never thought of their welfare and instead "looted" them.

"Now when we levied surcharge on liquor, cigarette to raise funds to meet the drought situation, they are critical of our decision. But when they were in power why didn't they see farmers' plight?" he asked. The BJP-led Government will not rest till it makes farmers prosperous once again, he said.

The bureaucracy's mindset also must change, Fadnavis said, adding, he was now out with a hunter to punish any Government employee coming in the way of protecting farmers' interest. He lamented that results of research being done at National Research Centre for Citrus, Nagpur is not reaching the orange cultivators.

"Farmers must get the benefit of research, but that is not happening," he said. The Chief Minister said Israel has set a model before the world in agriculture despite being a rain-starved country. "This it could do because the farmers there adopted modern technology and undertook various experiments and shared the success with others," the CM said.

"Our orange is a good table fruit and for its global marketing it is necessary to create an export arrangement. We have decided to send orange containers to Bahrain, Singapore, Dubai this year," he added. The CM announced to set up a dehydration project in Warud this year and undertake steps for value addition and marketing of oranges.

He also agreed to set up an orange juice processing unit with Government funding in Morshi in the district, but stated it would become viable only if it was marketed under some brand name. Fadnavis said he has asked top officials to contact big names like Pepsico to market the orange juice.

"If any global brand shows interest, we will not hesitate to bring them to our state by offering concessions," he said. Fadnavis also announced to make available Government land to set up orange stalls in 10 major cities of the State so that the fruit can be marketed there.

The state has been facing crisis ever since his Government assumed power in October last year, Fadnavis said, adding, 24,000 villages faced drought during kharif season. "If farmers are to be pulled out of his situation, there is no alternative to assured irrigation," he said and added that the Government's flagship programme of Jalyukta Shivar was proving a great success in this direction.

The project involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, work on nullahs and digging of farm ponds. "In the last 8 months, one lakh works have been completed in 6,000 villages (under the project) and by March end next, they will have become drought-free," he said.

He said this programme was even hailed by the world when Magsaysay awardee water conservationist Rajendra Singh spoke about it at a conference in Stockholm. Speaking on the occasion, Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse said the Government is mulling to provide insurance cover to 1.35 crore farmers in the State.

The Government would take care of the insurance premium payment, Khadse said. Under the insurance cover, if a farmer meets with death for any reason, his family will get Rs 2 lakh, he said. Khadse said a lifelong security will thus be granted to the farmers under the scheme.

The Minister urged farmers not to commit suicide. "We are ready to help you financially. Farmers committing suicide is not only a painful thing but also a curse on the Government," he added. He also said the BJP-led Government will come out with an integrated package for the orange growers.