Maharashtra leaders embark on drought tourism
Weeks after voting for the Lok Sabha elections and with months to go for the Assembly elections, Maharashtra's ruling and opposition politicians have started taking stock of the drought stituation, billed as the worst in 47 years.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has ordered all his Ministers - from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena - to go to the districts where they are appointed 'Guardian Ministers' and prepare detailed ground reports on the water crises.
Officials have also been asked to tour their respective districts and submit comprehensive reports by May 21.
These reports would include the exact status of water availability in some of the worst hit areas in Marathwada, Konkan and Vidarbha, Western and North Maharashtra.
Around 21,000 villages in 151 tehsils across the state are in the grip of drought, covering almost half the geographical area of the state.
With water levels in all the big and small dams in these regions receding fast, Fadnavis is reviewing the status on a daily basis.
He asked all Guardian Ministers and Secretaries to ensure prompt implementation of drought mitigation measures, including jobs under the Employment Guarantee Schemes for the affected people.
Not to be left behind, opposition leaders too are out assessing the damage. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar has already started a two-day tour of Marathwada from Sunday.
"The drought this year is worse than in 1972. Back then, people only wanted jobs. This time there are no jobs, no drinking water for man and animal, no water for farmland, crops and plantations have completely dried up," said a grim Pawar after meeting farmers in Beed.
He informed the farmers that he would submit a detailed status report to the Chief Minister and urge him to extend relief without any delay or discrimination, ensure jobs for the people, provision of clean drinking water, prompt drought aid and crop insurance and other initiatives for the suffering masses.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said that 11 party legislators will fan out across the state soon and submit their ground assessment of the situation to the party leadership.
A government official said that the state has set up over 1,250 fodder camps for 850,000 cattle and tankers are ferrying water to around 12,116 villages.
An amount of Rs 4,412.57 crore has been deposited in the bank accounts of nearly 6.80 million farmers and another Rs 1,100 crore disbursed as crop insurance, said another official at the Mantralaya.
The official said the dams in the state had barely 1.35 per cent water left and Marathwada was the worst hit with just 4.87 per cent in all its reservoirs.
Marathwada's nine major reservoirs -- Paithan, Yeldari, Manjara, Majalgaon, Siddeshwar, Sina-Kolegaon, Lower Terna, Lower Manar and Lower Dudhana -- have barely 0.7 per cent water left, and the minimal stock in the biggest, Jayakwadi may be wiped out soon.