Heavy rain accompanied by hailstorms in 28 districts of Maharashtra claimed the lives of at least 12 people and caused widespread damage to crops, affecting nearly five million farmers, officials said Monday.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan spoke to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Election Commission to apprise them of the situation, and said the government will ensure aid to the farmers while taking care not to violate the model code of conduct.
Large areas of Baramati, Nagpur and Pune were hit by rain even Monday.
“In the past 10 days or so, around 800,000 hectares spread across 28 districts in the state were hit by either heavy rain or severe hailstorms,” Agriculture Commissioner Umakant Dangat said.
The damage included around 50,000 hectares of fruit crops, including grapes, oranges, bananas and pomegranates. The crop of wheat, jowar and grams has been virtually razed while the cotton crop has also been affected, he said.
The hail carpeted fields, farms and highways in Beed, Latur, Nashik, Dhule, Satara, Pune, Nagpur and other places.
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who toured some of the worst-hit regions Monday, announced that the affected farmers shall be given aid and compensation on priority.
“A central team will arrive here Thursday to assess the damage and losses suffered by the farmers. It will submit its report and later announce necessary relief measures,” Pawar said.
The chief minister will go on a two-day tour starting Tuesday to some of the worst affected regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha.
“We shall ensure aid to the farmers while taking care not to violate the Election Commission’s model code of conduct which is now in force,” Chavan told media persons.
The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti has also written to the Election Commission urging postponement of the polls in the state by a fortnight to enable payment of compensation to the farmers.
The heavy rain has also killed thousands of cattle, goats, fowl, wild birds and other smaller creatures.