Shiv Sena slams Maharashtra government's drought surcharge decision

Ruling partner Shiv Sena has slammed Maharashtra's BJP-led government's decision to levy an additional surcharge on a host of items to raise money to tackle the drought situation in the state, dubbing it as 'pick pocketing'.

Instead of resorting to this sort of a measure, the state should have sought a financial package from the Centre, similar to the one announced for Bihar, to help crisis-hit farmers, Sena's mouthpiece 'Saamana' said in an editorial today.

"We can describe our state of finance in one word-pick pocketing. Remove a little from somebody's pocket, again remove some from somebody else's pocket and keep them in the treasury. Do we really need a finance minister at the Centre and in the state to do such things?" Sena said.

"By casting a burden of Rs 1,600 crore on people to help farmers, state finance minister has indulged in pickpocketing ... The only question is, will this really wipe the tears from farmers' eyes? So far, the government has provided Rs 425 crore to help farmers who suffered failure of crops, Rs 690 crore as insurance for crops, Rs 1,000 crore for crop losses, Rs 950 crore to distribute food grains at cheap costs," the Sena said.

It wanted Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who belongs to the BJP, make clear the Centre's stand on providing financial aid to drought affected farmers.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aware of the problems of crisis-hit Bihar and announced a package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore. That is evident from the package he announced for Bihar. A similar concern for drought affected farmers will help mitigate the situation (in Maharashtra). We are only asking what is due to us," the Sena said.

To raise funds for tackling drought, the state government had last week announced a surcharge of Rs 2 on petrol and diesel while increasing the VAT on liquor, cigarettes and beverages by 5 per cent.

It also imposed a 1.20 per cent surcharge on VAT on gold and diamond jewellery. The additional levy will be in force for five months.

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