Around 180 talukas in the state are facing a drought-like situation, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Tuesday.
These talukas were identified on the basis of norms laid down by the Centre, he said, adding the situation has arisen as the state received only 77 per cent of its average rainfall this year.
The opposition Congress slammed the BJP-led government over the issue, saying it should straightway declare drought in the state and stop using terminologies like “scarcity-like” or a “drought-like” to describe the situation.
“A situation of drought has developed in Maharashtra. The state has received only 77 per cent of its average annual rainfall. I have declared 180 talukas to be facing a drought-like situation as per the norms of the Centre and immediate measures are being taken in view of the situation,” Fadnavis said after a weekly state cabinet meeting.
The state has more than 350 talukas spread across 36 districts.
He said relief measures being undertaken by the state government include concession in land revenue, educational fees, continued power supply for agriculture pumps and deploying tankers for supplying drinking water in the talukas (an administrative unit in a district) facing water scarcity.
Fadnavis said a central government team will soon visit the state and declare financial assistance to deal with the situation.
Asked about the Opposition’s criticism over a Water Resources Department report, which stated that the groundwater level in 14,000 villages across 252 talukas has gone down by at least a metre, he said the state has received insufficient rainfall in the last three years.
He rejected the Congress criticism of the government’s flagship water conservation scheme, ‘Jalyukt Shivar’, and noted farmers have worked hard to make it a success.
The Congress has alleged the scheme is beset with corruption and despite its implementation, groundwater levels have dropped alarmingly in the state.
“The Congress is insulting farmers and villagers who toiled hard to make Jalyukt Shivar scheme a success and made their villages drought-free.
“This scheme means there should be water (for conservation) even if there is less rain. It does not mean there will be water if there are no rains,” he said.
The chief minister said last year, the state received 80 per cent of its average rainfall, but still the farm productivity increased.
“There was less water for three continuous years, so we are using that water in the ground for farming. Therefore, agricultural produce increased by 27 per cent.
“Since there have been insufficient rains, we have used the water (conserved) through Jalyukt Shivar (for farm purposes) and hence storage is bound to go down,” he said.
The micro-irrigation scheme involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams and digging of farm ponds.
The chief minister said no one should politicise the issue.
“Maharashtra has seen many droughts but it is the first time when a drought is being declared in October. The Centre has adopted scientific norms for declaration of drought.
“These talukas were selected after strictly following the norms laid down by the Centre and various mitigation measures will be implemented in these talukas from today,” Fadnavis said.
Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan on Tuesday asked the Fadnavis government to declare drought in the state and immediately provide financial assistance to tackle the situation.
“The state government should straightway announce ‘drought’ and stop the word play wherein it is using terms like ‘scarcity-like’ or ‘drought-like’,” the former chief minister said.
He said the situation in the state is grim. Farmers have lost their kharif (summer) crops, while sowing for rabi (winter) season is severely affected.
“Irrespective of this, ministers are busy in jugglery of words such as ‘scarcity-like’ and ‘drought-like’ situation,” Chavan said.
He demanded urgent setting up of cattle sheds and deployment of water tankers in the affected areas.
Chavan alleged that ‘Jalyukt Shivar’ is the “biggest scam” in the state.
“Groundwater level across the state is depleted significantly despite thousands of crores are being spent on this scheme which is the biggest scam of this government,” Chavan alleged.
The Congress leader said farmers are angry with the BJP government.