It is quite known that Maharashtra has become a home to the highest number of farmers’ suicide due to crop failure. Now, this year Maharashtra has witnessed a subdued monsoon with observing scanty rains during October in a few parts of the state. These inadequate rains have resulted in arid conditions across the state which have further worsened the conditions of already grieving farmers with a dry spell after two years.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had declared a few days prior that 180 out of 353 talukas are drought-affected in the state due to irregular monsoon. The declaration came a day after a farmer and his wife were suspected to have committed suicide after killing their two-year-old daughter in a village in Ahmednagar district.
According to Fadnavis, more than 20,000 villages in the state are facing drought-like conditions. Marathwada region seems worst affected. He also assured that the state government has already started field-based drought assessments and calculations of crop yield losses in affected talukas. However, the reason mentioned by CM was that this year the state received only 77 per cent of the average rainfall.
Amid this water crisis situation, oppositions are leaving no stones unturned to slam the state government and hit out for its delay in announcing drought in the state. “I wonder whether Fadnavis will declare drought only after consulting the ‘Panchang’ (the astrological almanac referred to by Brahmins),” Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said at a rally. While the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar also demanded that the Central Government should step in and provide relief to Maharashtra. He also said, “Whenever there is a drought in Maharashtra, the Central government used to come to its aid. But it is not happening now.”
Nationalist Congress Party state unit chief Jayant Patil shows the party’s concern saying, “Since the last one and a half month, NCP is raising concerns over the issue, party workers even protested in every district, but the government denied. We request the government to not politicise this matter and take immediate steps.”
He further commented, “Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan of Maharashtra has seen a large scale of fraud and the government has failed to create enough water reservoirs. The drought situation at present is very serious in the state. If the scale would’ve been successful, the state wouldn’t have been facing drought situation soon after the monsoon. The dams in the Marathwada region are running dry and the government has neglected the situation. Shiv Sena criticising the government for its delaying in declaring a drought and failing to take preventive steps looks hilarious as they must learn to take the equal blame being in the coalition government.”
Congress also grabbed the opportunity as the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Ashok Chavan announced to commence the third phase of the Jan Sangarsh Yatra that will be dedicated to raise the demands of drought-affected farmers in the most scarcity affected region Marathwada which started on October 24.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe asserted, “Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan is one faulty plan that fooled people. The scheme failed to take note of soil conservation. Excess use of machinery for the scheme has led to erratic digging that has made the situation worse. Water conservationist Rajendra Singh has also accepted this.”
“We have many times tried to bring this into the notice of the government but it went unheard. When the Prime Minister had announced that the government has managed to save a good quantity of water, he must answer why did the water level go down then? He must also answer where and how the entire allocated fund was used? What happened to the loan-waiver even? The present government is unaware of how to properly govern a state and they do nothing except bluffing,” Londhe casted his doubt.
According to the reports in July, the Maharashtra government’s flagship water conservation scheme called as ‘Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan’ that was launched in 2016 claims to have rejuvenated water bodies and created an additional storage potential, in a state where some parts perennially face a drought-like situation. The official figures released by the government states that under the scheme, a water storage capacity of 17,27,229 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) has been created across 16,521 villages in 34 districts of the state since 2015. The data mentions that in 2015-2016, 100 per cent work under the scheme was completed in 6,202 villages.
Later in 2016-17, out of the total 5,288 villages where the project was taken up, 100 per cent work was completed in 5,114 villages and 80 per cent in 174 villages. In 2017-18, out of 5,031 villages selected for the scheme, 100 per cent work was completed in 396 villages, 80 per cent in 1,247 villages, while work was on in the remaining 3,418 villages. Thus, out of the total 16,521 villages, 100 per cent work has been completed in 11,712 villages and 80 per cent in 1,421 villages. An irrigation potential of 22,74,744 hectares has thereby been created in these villages, according to the data.
The micro-irrigation project involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, and digging of farm ponds, and gave a word to make the state free of drought by 2019. Nonetheless, analysts believe that the figures claimed by the government is contradicting totally with the reality as with the nearing of 2019 and the state is catching a sight of becoming parched. Here the question arises that is the state government not prepared enough in terms of financial resources, water management strategies etc.?
Denying the failure of Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, BJP state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari stated that if Jalyukt Shivar is a failure, the drought would’ve hit us in July itself. Jalyukt Shivar is supposed to store the water received from rainfall. If the rainfall is poor, how will sufficient water storage be possible?
He further explained, “One has to understand the nature of water scarcity in Maharashtra and this is in connection with monsoon rainfall quality since ages. This year we have seen a very irregular monsoon i.e. only 60-701 per cent of the state’s average rainfall. The incumbent Maharashtra government has accepted the seriousness of the situation, unlike the previous government who used to declare it enough late. Those who are accusing the government for the delay in declaring a drought, I must say they are only misleading the people.”
According to weather reports, monsoon in 2018 ended well below normal to the tune of 91 per cent, with Maharashtra ending at 92 per cent. The Maharashtra CM had affirmed that an official drought announcement will be expected by month-end and the state government may also approach the Centre for drought relief. However, looking at the current situation in the state, farmers are in a dilemma whether they will face even more distress than previous years?