NCP president Sharad Pawar on Saturday came down heavily on the BJP-led Maharashtra government’s drought relief measures, saying it woke up only after he toured some drought-affected areas recently. As many as 151 out of 358 tehsils in the state have been declared as drought-affected. Addressing a press conference here, the NCP chief alleged that drought relief measures were implemented late. The Model Code of Conduct for elections does not come in the way of drought mitigation, only the Election Commission has to be informed about the urgency of measures, he said.
Pawar said he visited drought-hit areas of Solapur district soon after casting his vote on April 29 in the fourth and last phase of Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra. “The government has woken up now, after my visit. It was necessary to provide drinking water for people and cattle, employment, fodder, to set up cattle camps and put together a financial package for farmers,” he said. An NCP delegation led by the party’s state unit chief Jayant Patil will soon meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to discuss drought relief, he said.
The former Union agriculture minister said among the main demands would be financial assistance for protecting horticultural crops, over and above other crop losses. “The losses of horticulture farmers are huge,” he said. The aid of Rs 90 per animal was not enough as fodder and water were expensive, Pawar said. Also, the rule that a farmer can place a maximum of five animals in cattle camp should be waived, he said. Recovery of all kinds of government dues should be stopped, and farmers in drought-affected areas should get loan waiver or their crop loans should be restructured, he said.
He also demanded waiver of educational fees of students from drought-affected areas as the new academic year starts next month. A provision should also be made to arrange food for such students who are living in cities, he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed six or seven rallies in Maharashtra, but focused all his energy on making personal remarks against opponents, Pawar said. He also praised the work of actor Aamir Khan’s Paani Foundation for promoting water conservation. “Our party will also contribute to the Water Cup initiative (in which villages compete to implement water conservation projects) of the foundation,” he said. PTI