Adding to the woes of drought-hit Maharashtra, where almost 60% of the state is reeling under extreme water scarcity, the state’s agriculture department has issued an advisory for the farmers warning against a possible delay in monsoon. The department has suggested the farmers to start sowing and other related works under the direction of the meteorological department. The state was expecting the start of monsoon by June 8 but with updated details, it may get delayed till as late as June 15.
The lack of drinking water is the biggest issue for entire Marathwada, North Maharashtra and western Vidarbha region. Several parts of Western Maharashtra (Jat, Aatpadi, Khatav, Man, Sangola area) are also facing severe water shortage. The reports from only North Maharashtra region suggests that the number of water tankers being provided by the state government has increased by almost six folds compared to last year. This year, almost 1,200 tankers have been running in this region. At the state level, the number of tankers goes up to 6,300. Even then, there are serious complaints from various corners of the state about tanker shortage.
Reserved water in the dams of the state has gone down to 13% till May 28. Marathwada is the worst affected region in the state where the only 2.9% of water stock is left in different reservoirs. The state’s irrigation officials are suggesting that in almost 45 dams of the state, the level has gone down to 0%. Now, it will have to lift water from dead stock if needed.
Also read: Drought Back in Headlines in Maharashtra
There are around 1,500 cattle camps being run in the state to help farmers to take care of their cattle. Almost 10.5 lakh cattle are kept in these camps. State government has released Rs 155 crore for the fodder camps across state.
The drought has affected the farmers the worst. The entire Rabi crop has been wasted. Soya bean and onions are the only two crops from which farmers were expecting a successful harvest this year. But the slashed rates of both has destroyed the hopes of farmers. In this backdrop, the state government has asked banks to provide crop loans to farmers, however, complaints about banks rejecting loan proposals are pouring in from entire Maharashtra.
There is also a buzz in the state that ahead of Assembly elections, the Maharashtra government may come up with the farm loan waiver scheme once again and that this time, entire loans will be waived off, as demanded by many farmer organisations. The state budget session is set to start from June 17. The full budget will be presented on June 18. If the loan waiver is announced in this budget session, it will prove as a great relief for the farmers struggling against drought.
Also read: #MahaDrought: Struggle for Water, Struggle for Life
The drought is also affecting the consumer markets in cities like Mumbai and Pune. The flow of wheat and rice has gone down in Mumbai. Till last month, around 1,700 to 1,800 tons of wheat was coming into Mumbai market. Now it has reduced to 400 to 600 tons. On the other hand, people have started stocking Jowar ahead of the rainy season. This has increased the Jowar inflow to market to almost 100 to 200 tons, leading to a rise in the rates, upto Rs 27 to 40.
Another impact is that power generation from Koyana dam has stopped due to depleting water level. The capacity of the dam is around 105 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) but currently it has just 12 % of the water stock. This has forced the state government’s power generation company to shut down the hydropower project, which in turn has reduced almost 1,000 MW power from the state’s generation capacity. The power department is claiming that it will not affect the state in terms of power load shedding as thermal power projects are running in full capacity.
Meanwhile, the opposition and farmers’ organisations are slamming the state government for lack of management to face the drought. “The entire state machinery was used for elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government is more worried about power than people’s issues. So, from tanker management to fodder camps, there are a number of issues in every tehsil. The government’s complete inability to handle the crisis stands exposed now,” said Dr Ajit Nawale, General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha.
Also read: #MahaDrought: State Flagship Programme of Micro Irrigation Fails to Give Any Respite