Drought hit farmers return awards in Maha
Farmers from drought-hit Marathwada who were honoured by the state are returning their awards to protest the government's "incapability" to halt farmers' suicides. Several farmers returned their 'Sheti Nishtha' awards for best agricultural practices and some even returned the award money conferred upon them. Farmers have stated that they have done so in order to protest against the government's "insensitive approach" towards drought-hit farmers.
Since the last 4 years, Maharashtra has had the highest drought-affected areas compared to other states. There have been 3 droughts since 2011, with the 2013 drought being the worst in 40 years. Experts claim that both manmade and global climate change factors have induced the recurring droughts. Marathwada and Vidarbha have been worst impacted by changing rainfall patterns and improper water management.
According to the Indian Meteorological Department, a drought year is one in which the overall rainfall deficiency is more than 10% of the decade's average and more than 20% of the agricultural area is affected. It can be caused by reduced rainfall, drying up of surface waters or inadequate soil moisture leading to a drop in land productivity.
While the mean rainfall hasn't changed, the state is seeing more spells of heavy rainfall, where the aquifers don't get a chance to get recharged. Inadequate irrigation is the other biggest factor with 82% of the cultivated land in Maharashtra being rain-fed. Implementation projects have been notoriously slow with 225 projects under execution for more than 30 years. Water-guzzling sugarcane cultivation is widely practiced.
Though only 4% of the cultivated land in Maharashtra is under sugarcane cultivation, it drains about 70% of the irrigation resources. About 79% of sugarcane is grown in drought-prone regions.
As areas began to show signs of a 2nd consecutive drought, CM Fadnavis stressed that infrastructural investments would be more effective in mitigating drought than loan waivers. He stated that power and irrigation projects would be expedited including the Rs.1000 crore power project and the Rs.2500 crore 'Jalyukta Shivar' irrigation project. Affected farmers would have the provision to take up 100-day employment under MNREGA.
A sub-committee declared drought in 14, 708 of the state's 43,000 villages after assessment of the Kharif season's crop yield. Almost 58% of the drought-hit districts were in the Marathwada region, where each of its 8522 villages faced drought-like conditions. After Marathwada, North Maharashtra was most affected. Maharashtra had received 710 mm of rainfall up till 13 October i.e. 61.3% of the normal rainfall.
The Fadnavis government announced a Rs.10,512 crore package to help farmers affected by the drought. The package aims to help farmers directly, instead of through loan waivers through financial institutions. Rs.7414 crore were allocated for crop insurance, especially for soy, cotton and paddy, for uninsured farmers. Rs.750 crore were sanctioned to improve water management through the construction of wells and farm ponds.
The 'Jalayukta Shivar Abhiyan' a project to make the state drought-free by 2019. The project focusses on promoting micro-irrigation by creating water bodies and replenishing groundwater in rainfed areas, and has completed about 123, 000 projects successfully till now.
The Centre approved the largest ever drought relief package of Rs.3049 crore from the National Disaster Relief Fund to the Maharashtra government. The Fadnavis government had submitted a proposal for a grant of Rs.4500 crore to the government to compensate farmers for crop damage. The state government is also exploring other modes of raising revenues to tackle the drought crisis.