This year Maharashtra has witnessed severe drought and farmer suicides. A wealthy state came in unexpected crisis. People voted for BJP with lots of expectations but the government had no control over these disasters. A shocking 3,228 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015, the highest since 2001, according to data tabled in the Rajya Sabha on March 4, 2016 – that is almost nine farmers every day. Maharashtra is already known for its farm crisis and reports the highest number of farmer’s suicides in the country. The drought — brought on by a delayed and inadequate monsoon — is set to deepen the distress for its cultivators. Data with the agriculture department shows that two-third of the state’s 1.37 crore farmers have been affected by the drought which has impacted mainly the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. These areas have historically been the most deprived in the state.
The drought has come in focus primarily because of the IPL matches being held in Maharashtra and supposed wastage of water at the grounds when the rest of the state is suffering. Also, there is a water train that has staked its way into Latur, which is almost like ground zero when it comes to the drought this time. Nearly 90 lakh farmers in Maharashtra have been stuck by the drought that has distressed the kharif crop, official data shows. It comes close on the heels of the crop distress wreaked by the hailstorms last year which hit cultivators hard. Earlier farmers used to suffer because of low yields but at least they got a decent price for their produce. Now they have poor yield and very low prices for their crop.
Three weeks ago, Maharashtra government officially declared that 60% of its villages were facing a “drought-like condition”. This means that they reported a crop yield which was less than 50% of the standard yield in the area. In absolute figures, 23,811 of the state’s 39,453 villages come in this category. This will result in a drastic fall in the state’s agricultural output for the year. It is a very difficult situation. Farmers in the state are facing severe agrarian distress.
Latur, Beed, Osmanabad residents cannot bathe more than once a week. They wipe themselves with a wet cloth. They wipe out plates and hands after a meal instead of washing them. None of the toilets in the village has water supply. Poor villagers are migrating to cities and took refuge on streets. Villagers have begun selling their cattle at half-price in Beed’s Georai taluka, because they are running out of water and fodder.
In the arid region of Marathwada, which received just half its regular rainfall, water storage in the dams is down to 15%. Across the region, wells and borewells are drying up. Officials say the drought in Maharashtra — among the most widespread in recent years –has affected crops more than drinking water. Yet Marathwada is already in the grip of a crisis which is set to intensify in the summer months. Last October, the region received water from 22 tankers. Now, that has swelled to 640.
Destitute old citizens have no place in Maharashtra; they are hungry and starved to death. Not a speck of the 225 metric tonnes of grain the aged in the state are due to get every month under a food scheme for the poor can be found in Maharashtra. With the Centre not releasing the quota since April 2014, the scheme has come to a complete standstill in the state for the last 10 months.
The Annapurna Yojana, which has been operating nationwide since 2001, has roughly 78,400 beneficiaries in Maharashtra. Under the scheme, the destitute population—aged 65 and above—is eligible for 10 kg of free wheat and rice each month. The grains are provided by the Centre. The state was receiving roughly 225 metric tonnes of wheat and rice from the Centre each month. However, since April 2014, the Centre’s allocation abruptly halted and has still not resumed figures with the state food and civil supplies department show. The state government sent across its “utilization certificate” with its demand for grains in March 2014. However, no supply arrived and no explanation seems to be forthcoming.
Meanwhile as a courtesy Maharashtra government deployed trains to supply water to drought-hit Latur, but there also they try to garner political mileage out of it. The Maharashtra government has declared a “drought-like condition” in 14,708 of the state’s 43,000 villages. This means the drought covers 34% of the state. This is the second successive year of drought in Maharashtra. In fact, the state has experienced three such calamities in the last four years. The region of Marathwada has been worst-hit, with a drought-like condition declared in every single village. As many as 8,522 villages in the region have been impacted. This accounts for 58% of the drought area in the state.
North Maharashtra, which includes Nashik and Jalgaon districts, follows next with 4,869 villages impacted. This accounts for 33% of the drought area. The region of Konkan has been spared, with not a single village affected by the calamity. The Konkan region experienced satisfactory monsoon this year. The government has announced a series of measures for drought-affected farmers, including the waiver of land revenue and school fees for their children and a 33% waiver in the bill amount of agricultural pumps. The government has also said it will provide water tankers in scarcity-prone villages and take steps not to disconnect agricultural pumps. So far, Rs 920 crore has been provided for drought relief, of which Rs 556 crore has come from the Centre.
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