Maharashtra declares drought in 29,000 villages

The BJP-led Government in Maharashtra has declared 'drought' in over 29,000 villages of the state, mostly in parched Marathwada and Vidarbha regions where the grim situation was earlier described as 'drought-like.'

DroughtFile pic of a farmer standing over in his dried up cotton field. Pic/PTI

The government through a corrigendum on Wednesday clarified that wherever reference is made to a 'drought-like situation' in the state manual, it would be read as 'drought,' in accordannce with an assurance it gave to the Bombay High Court recently.

The opposition Congress and the NCP, however, said today the Fadnavis Government was not serious in addressing the situation and the belated move was only meant to avoid judicial action.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on his part said the villages that have now been declared as affected by drought were already receiving benefits from the government and that the Drought Manual provided only for the word 'drought-like.'

"We had already declared a drought-like situation in these villages. All the benefits which are needed to be given were accorded. The High Court asked us why 'drought-like' and not 'drought (is used in reference to the affected villages). We pointed out that the Manual was adopted more than 25 years back and it provides for the word drought-like. There is no word as drought in the manual," Fadnavis told PTI.

"We also pointed out that even if we call it drought by effecting changes in the manual, it will not attract anything new to be done. What we have done or doing will continue. Court asked us our willingness to change the manual and introduce the word drought. We said we are ready to do that. So we did that and conveyed it to the court," he added.

State Congress president and former chief minister Ashok Chavan said the government is not serious in tackling the drought and that the decision has been taken keeping in mind the monsoon season which is due shortly. "The government is simply not serious on tackling drought. They were scared that the courts might take action against them and thus chose to simply adhere to the court and make the necessary changes," he said.

"Also, the government knows that monsoon is soon to arrive and thus they would not have to do anything much even if they bring in the word drought. This is clever tactics played by the government," Chavan said.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said the government was prompted by the fear that the court would come down on it if it dithered on the issue. "People are asking this for the last 8 months and the government suddenly wakes up now. They are scared of action
by the court and hence they decided to declare drought. This decision, along with CM's meet with the Prime Minister besides seeking additional funds to tackle drought have all been done keeping in mind the monsoon season, which is barely two months away," Malik said.

The government on Wednesday issued a corrigendum clarifying that wherever a reference is made to a 'drought-like situation', it would be read as 'drought'.

"The state government has already taken drought relief measures in villages where the proportion of failed crops is below 50 paise in Kharif and Rabi season. Nevertheless, in future, all instances of villages where the government has mentioned drought-like situation, the reference to the situation will be called as drought," stated a government resolution issued in Mumbai on Wednesday.

In the wake of acute water shortage in various parts of Maharashtra, the state government had informed the High Court that it would declare drought in over 29,000 villages in the state and all relief prescribed in the Drought Manual, 2009 would be provided.

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