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Firstpost Ground Report: A region obsessed with sugarcane is schooled in water conservation, and switching crop patterns

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Firstpost Ground Report: How a Marathwada village fought its way out of crippling drought

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Firstpost Ground Report: Why Devendra Fadnavis’ bold gambit to tackle drought in Maharashtra is working

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Uddhav Thackeray takes dig at BJP, says focus on ground realities than making cities smart


He further said that his party is focusing on improving the conditions of farmers in the state and that it will live up to the aspirations of the people

Uddhav Thackeray

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday asked the BJP-led Centre and the Maharashtra government to pay attention to ground level issues plaguing the people before focusing on Smart City project.”Before focusing on Smart City project, the government should first focus on mitigating the drinking problems of people. Women in villages need money for their basic survival,” Thackeray said while addressing a gathering in Jalgaon. Shiv Sena is the partner in both the government at the Centre and in Maharashtra. Referring to the incident where a 16-year-old daughter of a farmer in drought-hit Latur district of Marathwada allegedly committed suicide by consuming pesticide as her debt-pressed parents could not buy her a monthly state transport ‘bus pass’ to commute to college, Thackeray said that a minister who has no time to listen to the woes of the people, has no place in his party.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”It is shameful that families in Maharashtra do not have the money to educate a girl child. After Swati Pitale’s (the Latur girl) suicide, I immediately called up Transport minister Diwakar Raote to find a solution to the problem. “Due to his efforts, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) decided to waive the fee completely for the students of first-year junior college and above in the eight drought- affected districts of Marathwada. Around 4.60 lakh students are benefiting from this scheme,” he said.He further said that his party is focusing on improving the conditions of farmers in the state and that it will live up to the aspirations of the people.”A minister who has no time to listen to the problems of people has no place in the Sena. We do not oppose the government for the sake of opposing but have the courage to oppose what is not beneficial for people. We will live up to the expectations of people,” the Sena chief said.

Drought declared in 14,708 villages in Maharashtra

The highest number of these drought affected villages — 8,522 are from the Aurangabad division — which covers Marathwada.

In an indication of the extent of the poor rainfall and agrarian distress in Maharashtra, the state government has declared drought in 14,708 of 40,053 surveyed villages.The highest number of these drought affected villages — 8,522 are from the Aurangabad division — which covers Marathwada.In Marathwada, all villages in the eight districts have been declared as being under drought based on the ‘paisewari’ or average yield which is determined through scientific crop-cutting experiments. The results of this crop cutting are compared with the historic average. Villages with a paisewari (or anewari as it is also called) under 50% are declared as drought-affected.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Revenue minister Eknath Khadse said that these villages would get 33.5% concessions in power bills for agricultural pumps, the educational fees for students in aided schools and colleges would be waived off, exemptions would be given in land revenue and water tankers would be provided wherever necessary. Power supply will not be cut off to agricultural pumps in these drought-affected villages.Khadse, who was speaking after the meeting of the cabinet sub-committee, said that considering the demands of the farmers, purchase centers would be started for cotton, soyabean, maize, and rice. He added that the state and Centre had provided Rs 530 crore for drought, and next week, the state will submit a memorandum to the Centre regarding the necessity of funds for drought relief measures.A total of 189 talukas, of which the highest of 16 each are in Nanded and Yavatmal districts, have seen rainfall less 75% of the average.Khadse said that this was the first time in 40 years that the drought was being declared early. He added that crops like wheat, sunflower, and jowar had been sown for the rabi season. Division villages where the paisewari has been declared villages where the paisewari is less than 50 paiseKonkan 6,028 0Nashik 5,604 4,869Pune 4,635 782Aurangabad 8,522 8,522Amravati 7,244 57Nagpur 8,020 478TOTAL: 40,053 14,708

dna-Zee Adopt a Family campaign: Readers contribute generously to drought-hit families in Marathwada

The effort was part of Zee Media Corporation Ltd’s idea of not just telling stories but also trying to change the stories for the better, wherever possible.

Leading Marathi channel Zee24 Taas and its English language print sibling, dna, on Sunday handed out cheques to farmer-families, which had been laid low by the vagaries of monsoon and the resultant drought in the Marathwada region, at a function in Aurangabad. The effort was part of Zee Media Corporation Ltd’s idea of not just telling stories but also trying to change the stories for the better, wherever possible.With readers of dna and viewers of Zee24 Taas coming forward in a big way to brighten the bleak contours of drought-hit farmers’ lives, the event was marked by several farmers breaking down at the recollection of their miseries, and also the way an organisation reached out to offer them help in their time of need.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The inspired effort of dna-Zee 24Taas, and the generosity of their audience came as a ray of hope for scores of drought-hit farmer families of Marathwada, who had nowhere to turn to. On Sunday, at a function held at the MGM campus in Aurangabad, cheques contributed by readers in response to the sustained Adopt a Family campaign were handed over to tearful farmers.dna-Zee media had made travelling and food arrangements for the families to visit the venue. Unable to control her emotions, a woman said that while their own relatives turned them away at the time of crisis, coming to dna event was like returning to a mother’s home.Talking about the initiative, editor Dr Uday Nirgudkar shared a story with the gathered farmers and dignitaries.”Once during low tide, several sharks got beached on the sea shore. Taking pity at their plight, some fishermen started throwing them back in the sea. A passerby asked them that what was the use of throwing a few fish back, as thousands were lying on the shore dying. The fisherman replied that they can save at least some lives. Our initiative is exactly like that. We are very grateful to the readers and viewers who came forward to help the farmers and pulled them out of their misery,” said Nirgudkar.He added, “The initiative may have helped just a handful of farmers, but this it just a beginning. We are confident that the program will inspire other generous people to come forward and adopt more families.”

Southwest monsoon ends 14 percent lower than normal in India

New Delhi: Rainfall in the country was 14 percent lower than normal during the Southwest monsoon that officially ended on Wednesday with a double-digit rain deficit being recorded for the second consecutive year causing drought in some states.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

This year’s summer rains were particularly affected by the El-Nino phenomenon with the deficiency for the four-month long season being more or less in line with the forecast of the Indian Meteorological Department(IMD) which predicted 12 percent deficit. Last year, there was a 12 percent deficit.

Around 55 percent of the country, however, received “normal” rainfall, the IMD said.

The official period for the Southwest Monsoon season in India is between 1 June and 30 September.

“Rainfall in Southwest monsoon was 14 percent deficient. We are satisfied that our Long Range Forecast have turned out as per our prediction. This was for the first time that we made a prediction of more than 10 percent deficiency,” IMD Director General Laxman Singh Rathore said.

IMD had made a forecast of 88 percent rainfall with plus or minus 4 percent.

Country wise, Northwest India has recorded a deficiency of 17 percent, followed by 16 percent in Central India, 15 percent in Southern Peninsula and 8 percent in East and North-east India.

Several parts of the country also witnessed a drought like situation. For instance the deficiency in Marathwada ended at 40 percent, but situation has particularly turned grim where the overall deficiency now stands at around 45 percent. Incidentally, West Rajasthan, which is usually known to be arid, has received 46 percent more rainfall this year.

The season this year witnessed rainfall, which started with excess rainfall for the first month, but ended with a deficiency in the remaining three months.

The monsoon, which hit the Kerala coast a tad late on 5 June, four days after the official onset of rainy season in India. June saw 16 percent excess rain this season. However, July witnessed deficiency of 16 percent. It further grew to 22 and 24 percent for August and September respectively.

Some of the states that have observed very poor rains are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Maharashtra, Skymet, a rival of IMD said.

With weak monsoon, India’s food grain production is also projected to drop by 1.78 percent to 124.05 million tonnes in the 2015-16 kharif season due to poor monsoon and drought-like situation in some states like Karnataka. Food grain output was 126.31 million tonnes (MT) in the kharif (summer) season of the 2014-15 crop year (July-June).

As the season ended with a deficit, as on 23 September, ninety-one major water reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission (CWC) filled to the extent of only 62 percent to its total capacity of 253.388 billion cubic meter (bcm).


Falling through the cracks

This is not the first time when severe drought conditions have led to crop failure, mounting debts and farmer suicides across the Deccan Plateau from Marathwada in Maharashtra to Telangana and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Does dissent make me a leftist? Rajdeep Sardesai hits back at CM Fadnavis’ letter

A day after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis responded to journalist Rajdeep Sardesai’s open letter, the senior journalist has responded with a post on Facebook as his website has crashed because of the exodus of traffic.

Here’s the full text of Rajdeep Sardesai’s reply to Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis.

Dear Devendraji,

Firstly, I wish to thank you for replying to my open letter and creating space for a public debate. This is a sign of a truly healthy democracy and is rare for a politician in this day and age. I truly appreciate that a big politician chooses to reply to a humble columnist: doesn’t happen too often in an age where the media is a soft target. However, while I do not wish this to become a tu to main main, I must reserve the right to reply.

IBN live.IBN live.

IBN live.

Sir, there are four basic issues that I raised in my original letter to which you have responded. Firstly, the meat and beef ban in Maharashtra. On the beef ban, the fact is that your government has imposed a statewide ban in a unilateral manner with no attempt to engage with the stakeholders. The results are there for all to see. Thousands of people associated with the cattle trade have overnight been rendered unemployed. They are all citizens of this country, many of whom voted for you in the last election. I haven’t heard a word of empathy for their plight (a number of them belong to the minority community but let’s not go down there for now). Should I not ask as a journalist what useful public purpose has been served by this ban? Or does asking questions make me agenda driven?

The issue of a meat ban has a more chequered past. Yes, previous governments of the Congress-NCP, be it at the state or municipal level, have sought to impose bans on meat sale during the Jain festival. Under pressure from the Jain community, attempts have been made by your predecessors (and I mention this in my article without citing the dates) in 1994, 2003-04 and 2014 through government resolutions, but these were never widely enforced (the 94 order, for example, was never carried out), were often driven by a spirit of voluntarism (an ‘’appeal” was made to close meat shops) and nor did they initially last beyond two days (although the August 2014 Government resolution did seek to extend it to four days). It is only this year that the BJP dominated Mira-Bhayandar municipal corporation imposed an unprecedented eight day ban on meat sale and strictly enforced it. Taking a cue, a group of BJP MLAs, councillors and Jain community persons met the municipal commissioner and sought to extend this to Mumbai city and have a similar eight day ban on meat sale across the city. It is only when the Shiv Sena and MNS opposed this, that your local leaders were forced to back off because they couldn’t muster a majority.

The message is clear and this was the point I was making: the state BJP wanted to impose, indeed was pushing to impose, a ban much wider in scope and ambit than in the past And if I ask questions in this regard, am I agenda-driven or pseudo-secular or simply reflecting the concerns of a large section of the population who do not appreciate the ban culture, be it by a BJP government or a Congress government?

Lets turn to Rakesh Maria and the musical chairs played with the police commissioner’s office. You claim that his sudden transfer was necessitated by the rush of festivals: a new man was needed to oversee the festival arrangements. Truth is, almost no senior police officer I have spoken to is willing to buy this theory. Those who have retired have openly scoffed at this explanation, those in service are naturally hesitant to speak out. The conjecture is that Mr Maria’s transfer has something to do with the ongoing Sheena Bora investigation or a personal animus. You seem to suggest that his role as commissioner in a murder case was purely supervisory. Maybe it was, or should be. But the fact is, your government after transferring him to DG Home Guards in the morning, the very same evening claims that he will continue to oversee the Bora investigation. This, even as a new police commissioner and another fine officer Ahmed Javed takes charge. Can there be anything more confusing? Then, to compound the confusion, your government now decides to suddenly hand over the Bora case to the CBI. The Mumbai police claimed in court that it had clinching evidence while seeking remand against the accused; then why is the case being transferred out? Is the Mumbai police incompetent, is there a cover-up, or is the case throwing up new dimensions which perhaps might need fresh investigation? Is a journalist not to ask such questions without his motives being questioned?

Let’s turn to the issue of sedition and a government circular. You claim that the circular is a routine translation from Marathi of an order passed by the previous state government. Your reply seems to suggest that the role of the present government is little more than clerical that requires no application of mind to a serious issue. Well, all I can say is that on Tuesday, the Mumbai high court gave a very different spin to this issue: on a petition by cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, they have asked your government not to implement the circular for now and asked you to reply by the 20th of October. Since the matter is now before the esteemed court, maybe we should wait to see how they interpret the government circular: clearly, this round has been won by those who are worried that the circular can be misused by the police. Also, if you are not in agreement with the sedition circular why did your government not withdraw it? `Sedition’ is hardly a weapon to be used in the armoury of a democratic government which should welcome debate and disagreement. Why did your government re-issue this circular? And if I point to this potential for misuse, am I being agenda driven or simply doing my duty as a journalist?
The fourth issue is one which is dear to your and my heart: the plight of the farmers, especially in Marathwada at the moment. As a politician from Vidarbha, I know you empathise with farmers issues; I am aware that you took a lead role in exposing the irrigation scam when in opposition. And I am also aware of your efforts through the Jal Yukta Shivir Yojana to try and improve the situation on the ground. The facts though are that 729 farmers have committed suicide since January in Marathwada alone, more than any other part of the country, and tanker mafias and usurious money-lenders continue to rule. Yes, this is an inherited legacy (and I refer to the irrigation failures and comments made by previous ministers in my original letter), but on the ground there is hardly any evidence of the situation showing any marked improvement. Maybe, if your micro-irrigation schemes do work, then in the long run, there will be change. But for now, there is a deepening crisis. Should I not be asking you, therefore, to prioritise farm relief above all else? And should I not also ask what happened to the election promise of ensuring that those involved in the irrigation scam are punished? Or is asking hard questions in this age of cheerleaders and unbridled Bhakti, no longer acceptable?

My final point sir: in your response, at various points you call me a ‘leftist’, `pseudo secular’, and ‘biased’. You also rather derisively placed the word senior, as in senior journalist, in inverted commas. Personal attacks are now par for the course; 27 years of journalism have helped me acquire the skin of a rhinoceros. Over the years, I have been attacked by one and all: in 1992-93, Sharad Pawar, also a former Maharashtra CM, threw me out of a press conference because of the questions I asked on the Mumbai riots. Ten years later, my coverage of the 2002 riots led to my being attacked again. I have stood up against all forms of extremism, Hindu and Muslim, and am suspicious of all dogmas, be it of left or right. I have exposed Congress corruption (as editor of a news channel, I supervised the path-breaking investigative story on the Quattorochi accounts being defrozen), and sangh parivar hate politics, Mulayam’s goondaism (for which I was summoned to the UP state assembly) and Mayawati’s disproportionate assets (for which our OB van was burnt). Please do go through my columns over the last two decades, especially on Maharashtra politics, a state whose social and political decline I have observed with dismay.
I am happy to introspect, be corrected, but dislike being pigeonholed in any manner, except to say that I do believe in the spirit of a liberal, plural India that strives to provide equal opportunities to all its citizens. Does that make me a “Leftist?” as you appear to caricature all dissenters or questioners? If I question any form of bigotry, does that make me pseudo-secular? In my view, it makes me a proud, humane Indian.

Post-script: I must also thank all your followers who ensured I trended all through Tuesday on twitter. Their constant abuse gives me strength. Look forward to meeting soon! Jai Maharashtra, jai Hind!

Mumbai sees subdued Dahi Handi celebrations in midst of govt restrictions

Mumbai: Mumbai saw subdued Dahi-Handi celebrations on Sunday, in the backdrop of restrictions on height of pyramids and curbs on decibel levels.

Many prominent Dahi Handi mandals had announced they were calling off the celebrations in view of acute drought in various parts of the state, specially in Marathwada region.

Janmashtami celebrations. ReutersJanmashtami celebrations. Reuters

Dahi-Handi celebrations. Reuters

A 29-year-old person was killed while trying to tie the Dahi Handi at Bhiwandi in adjoining Thane district, police said.

Dahi Handi Utsav Samiti officials said despite security measures in place to prevent mishaps during formation of human pyramids to break Dahi Handis, there were reports of several cases of ‘govindas’ falling while attempting to break the handis (earthen pot).

So far, 35 persons injured in the Dahi Handi celebrations have been admitted to KEM hospital here, a civic official said.

In Dadar area, Jai Hanuman govinda troupe broke the Ideal Dahi Handi.

The excitement with which ‘Govindas’ travelled from the city to Thane and vice versa is not there this time.

A prominent Thane mandal decided not to celebrate the festival.

Samiti president Bala Padelkar said “children taking part in human pyramids were not below 12 years of age.”

Those like Jai Jawan Mandal from Jogeshwari, which created a world record in 2012 and won the award for most layers — nine — said it will be forming as many as they were prepared this time too.


Government mulling amending Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act

“Under the MGNREGA scheme, there is a limitation of allowing farm work with help of labourers and machines. Hence, in the state cabinet held yesterday, we discussed about amending the state’s EGS.

Maharashtra government is mulling amending the Maharashtra Employment Guarantee Act to bring under its ambit farm-hands and labourers involved in the agricultural sector.State finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the idea is to bring individuals other than farmers, like those who do the work of levelling farm lands and building farm roads under the ambit of the Employment Guarantee Scheme Act so that they get employment under it.”Under the MGNREGA scheme, there is a limitation of allowing farm work with help of labourers and machines. Hence, in the state cabinet held yesterday, we discussed about amending the state’s EGS.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”If we are able to amend the Act, employment can be provided to farmers as well as farm workers who do not have farm land,” Mungantiwar, who is also the State cabinet spokesperson, said.Under the EGS, a labourer can level agriculture land, create farm ponds, make farm roads between two adjacent farms and other works related to agriculture, he said.It would not be required to issue an Ordinance to amend the EGS. Only rules will need to be changed and issue a notification, he added.On the drought condition and acute drinking water shortage in many parts of the state, the minister said in the coming days, drinking water, livestock fodder, employment for farm-workers are the major issues that the government has to resolve.”Drinking water will be provided through tankers and railway wagons, if necessary,” he said.Over 150 out of 358 tehsils across the state have recorded crop below 50 per cent of the average production.Except eastern Vidarbha and some parts of western Maharashtra, rest of the state is currently facing drinking water scarcity.He said the government has decided to cultivate fodder across 40,000 acres land, especially in Marathwada, the worst affected region by drought.State government has also taken a decision to permit 50 per cent subsidy on machines worth Rs 18,000 that can cultivate cattle fodder within three days, he said.Mungantiwar also expressed fears of below average rainfall and said the government will release additional funds to meet the need of water if required.

Maharashtra government would not wait for Union government’s drought-prone areas

The state Cabinet on Tuesday reviewed the drought situation in the state after which the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis left for a 3-day tour to drought-affected areas in Marathwada region.

Stating that the state government would not wait for Union government’s help for helping drought-prone areas, minister for finance Sudhir Mungantiwar on Tuesday said that the state government would not hesitate availing loan while mitigating the drought situation in the state if need arises. The state Cabinet on Tuesday reviewed the drought situation in the state after which the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis left for a 3-day tour to drought-affected areas in Marathwada region. He would be visiting four districts in Marathwada in first phase of drought hit areas tour. He would be visiting Solapur and Ahmednagar on September 6 and 7, 2015.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Replying to a question Mungantiwar said that it was true that fodder camps were not started yet but the government was yet to decide as to whether the fodder camp should have started or the fodder should be provided at the door-step of the farmers. He said that it was a huge task and government would not wait Union government’s help while mitigating the drought situation in the state. He said that if required the government would not hesitate availing loan while helping the farmers of the state, who are hit by the worst ever drought-situation in the state in last many years. BJP state unit president Raosaheb Danve on Tuesday said that both the governments including Union government and the state government were capable of mitigating the drought-like situation in the state. He said that the state unit of the party would be making an arrangement in next two days which would ensure that all the MLAs would reach out to villages and ministers would monitor the drought mitigation at taluka level. He said that the chief minister is reaching out to district places and reviewing the drought mitigation plans while government has already started providing food-grains including rice and wheat at Rs 2 and 3 per Kg in 17 districts in the drought-hit areas of the state.

Mumbai: Half the policemen in coastal station don’t know how to swim

We have around 230 policemen who don’t know to swim or some who are not confident. We have already identified them and have started their training. We intend to train them in three months and have sought naval help, said deputy commissioner of police (port zone), Kiran Chavan.

Amit Bandre
Those who know how to swim are the ones who sink. If proverbs don’t lie, more than half the policemen posted in Mumbai’s coastal police station will never sink in their lives. Out of the 450 policemen in the stations, around 230 don’t know to swim! The admission comes from the Mumbai police themselves, after a recent coastal security audit.”We have around 230 policemen who don’t know to swim or some who are not confident. We have already identified them and have started their training. We intend to train them in three months and have sought naval help,” said deputy commissioner of police (port zone), Kiran Chavan.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Bad luck has been haunting the coastal police right from day one. The idea of coastal policing was born after the 26/11 terror attacks. Security around the 114-km coastline of Mumbai is of topmost priority to the Mumbai police as they are the first responders to any incident in the sea till 12 nautical miles, along with the Coast Guard.So, the government decided to set up two coastal police stations in the city. The first one came up in Mahim. The second? Don’t ask. Last heard, the Mumbai police were still scouting for a place in the Western suburbs.Then came August 2009. The Mumbai police decided to buy four sealegs (amphibious patrol boats) from a New-Zealand based firm for Rs 1.6 crore. The sealegs came and they were commissioned into service in November 2009.But soon after, they developed a snag. When the police tried to repair them, they found that the contract with the New Zealand company has not been renewed.dna spoke to V Balachandran, former special secretary, cabinet secretariat, and retired 1959 batch IPS officer in order to find out what’s really happening.”Coastal security in the city is in complete shambles. Policemen who come from Marathwada and Vidarbha have never seen water. When they are posted at sea, they face psychological problems,” he says.”I also believe that the state police are not equipped to look into coastal security. One can’t train an officer for sea patrolling. By the time he is ready to patrol, he is transferred from the police station,” he said.A Mumbai police officer showed how serious the situation is, recalling an incident: “Many times, terrorists do dry runs like transporting goats in dhows. One of them was intercepted in 2013. Those on the boat had satellite phones. We have also come across several cases of diesel smuggling mid-water. In many Sagar Kavach operations, dummy terrorists had managed to sneak in. It is important for the Maharashtra government to wake up from its slumber and secure the coast.”

NCP chief Sharad Pawar to meet PM Modi, FM Arun Jaitley over farmers’ loans

There should be no politics over farmers’ problems, Pawar said, in a veiled reference to BJP leaders’ criticism about his Marathwada tour.

There should be no politics over farmers’ problems, Pawar said.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar said on Sunday that he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the issue of restructuring farmers’ loans. “Farmers battling drought need immediate relief. We will meet the PM – if he is in India – and also the FM to discuss restructuring of farmers’ loans,” Pawar said at Parbhani in Marathwada as he concluded his three-day visit to the drought-affected region. There should be no politics over farmers’ problems, Pawar said, in a veiled reference to BJP leaders’ criticism about his Marathwada tour.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than 50,000 people from drought-hit areas in the Marathwada region migrated to Pimpri-Chinchwad near Pune during the last month, Pawar said. “People and cattle have no water to drink but the government is not doing anything. Nothing will be achieved by giving a new name to the Union Agriculture Ministry,” Pawar said, referring to PM Modi’s Independence Day speech yesterday.

Maharashtra: Shiv Sena joins opposition demand of Rs 12,000 cr package for Marathwada

Arjun Khotkar (Shiv Sena), legislator from Jalna, complained that Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan had not mentioned anything in his reply on Marathwada’s irrigation and development that would give relief to people of the region, which is staring at a drought. Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the government has made provision of only Rs 900 crores and it is like rubbing salt on the wounds of people of Marathwada

The Shiv Sena on Friday joined the Opposition Congress and NCP in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to demand a Rs 12,000 crore package to meet out the irrigation backlog in Marathwada region.Arjun Khotkar (Shiv Sena), legislator from Jalna, complained that Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan had not mentioned anything in his reply on Marathwada’s irrigation and development that would give relief to people of the region, which is staring at a drought. Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the government has made provision of only Rs 900 crores and it is like rubbing salt on the wounds of people of Marathwada.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He demanded a package of Rs 12,000 crores to overcome the backlog. Earlier, replying to a debate on the issue, Mahajan said he would convene a meeting of legislators from the region in Aurangabad next week.He assured the House that priority would be given to projects that are 70-75 per cent complete.Health Minister Deepak Sawant announced that a mental health hospital would be opened in Jalna. Power Minister Chandrashekar Bawankule said solar energy projects would be set up in the region. However, NCP leader Ajit Pawar took objection to Mahajan’s comment that the Congress and NCP had during their rule done nothing to develop Marathwada.The former Deputy Chief Minister said the previous government (Congress-NCP) had done all it could. Some mistakes happened and that is why people voted you to power, Pawar said.

Towards a better life in Maharashtra’s villages

Efforts of international football star Ron Vlaar and Socio Economic Development Trust have seen Purbhani, Hingoli and Buldhani villages strive towards success

Ron Vlaar (second from left) with others at the event.

By providing financial aid and moral support for the development of a village in a country which he had never visited before, International Football Player and defender for Aston Villa, Ron Vlaar (30) has set a beautiful example of selflessness and humanity for the youth of our nation. Right from the age of 20, Vlaar has been donating a part of his earnings to the NGO Socio Economic Development Trust (SEDT) which works in the remote villages of Purbhani, Hingoli and Buldhani districts in Maharashtra. To felicitate Vlaar on his first visit to India, an interaction meet was organized by Paranjape Schemes Construction Limited on 25th June at The Westin, Pune.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Along with Ron Vlaar, Cess Tompot, founder of Yojana Project Help, Netherlands – partner of SEDT, Suryakant Kulkarni, Founder of SEDT and Peter Vlaar, father of Ron Vlaar, SEDT team and the Paranjape family were also present. Calling Vlaar a true role model for the youth, Shashank Paranjape, trustee member of SEDT said, “It takes a lot of passion to reach out to help people who belong to a different nation and culture altogether. Ron is a sports celebrity and he has the power to influence a lot of lives. We have arranged this opportunity for the youth to speak to Ron and listen to his experiences at Kerawadi. It is sad to see the children of Kerwadi struggle to live, I hope the youngsters present here visit these villages and get motivated by Ron’s contributions.”Illustrating the work done by SEDT, Paranjape added, “For the past 35 years, SEDT has worked tremendously in these villages” The NGO has done some remarkable work in this area. It has set up 122 schools, child care and women care centers, education and training centers for adolescent girls and support programs for HIV/AIDS affected villagers. “I took my children, Amit and Yash Paranjape to visit the Kerwadi center once,” said Paranjape, ” the energy of the place is so infectious that they themselves go to spend time with these kids now.”After 10 years of association with the NGO, Vlaar visited the childcare center at Kerwadi, Purbhani district last week. Filled with excitement after seeing the work done with the help of his donatiosn and SEDT’s work in the area. “When we left for India, I had some idea of what to expect as I was told about all the work which was happening here. As we entered these villages and I was shown around the schools, small science centers and the discovery science center, I was delighted. It was gratifying to see the children learn through the responsive models, play sports and live a better life. The discovery science center with 100 plus virtual and responsive models illustrating science theories reminded me of my school exhibits.” said Vlaar.The brand ambassador of Yojana Project Help, Netherlands which is associated with SEDT for 32 years now, Vlaar shared his early memories of Yojana and helping India at the interaction meet. “Even before I met Cess Tompot, founder of Yojana Project Help, I remember collecting money for India during school. At that time I was not aware of the need of these donations, but after seeing Kerwadi, I believe even the smallest of help can make a difference” he said, Uurging the guests, especially the youth present at the meet to visit Kerwadi once and work towards the development of villages.SEDT, an Ngo established in 1980 with an aim to make a difference in the life of the rural population of the otherwise neglected areas of Marathwada, has been working in 370 villages. The NGO works in the area of educational women empowerment, community health and hygiene to infrastructure, no education services and gender inequality. “It is sad to hear to women in the villages say that they have no access to toilets and have to defecate openly, many children walk out of villages to live in the city as there are no basic amenities provided; youth is losing interest in agriculture fearing poverty. The SEDT has a dream of developing villages and eradicating poverty” said Suryakant Kulkarni, founder of SEDT who left his job 35 years back to work for the villages in Marathwada. Speaking of Ron Vlaar as an inspiration, Kulkarni added, “It is great to have been associated with Ron for 10 years now. The trust that he has on us helps us work harder to make the most of his donation.

AAP gives education funds to 42 children of farmers who committed suicide in Maharashtra

Mumbai: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Wednesday handed over cheques to 42 children of farmers who committed suicide this year in Maharashtra.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

AAP’s state unit had announced that it will set up a ‘Seed Fund’ to help children of farmers, who committed suicide this year, by sponsoring their education till Class XII.

The party handed over cheques to 42 such children at a function organised in Aurangabad in Central Maharashtra, an AAP statement said in Mumbai.

The party’s National General Secretary Pankaj Gupta, State Convenor Subhash Ware, State Co-Convenor Raju Bhise and Marathwada Regional Convenor Farooque Ahmed were among others present at the event.

The party had urged sponsors (individuals and entities) to come forward and fund the education of the children.

“This help could be actualised only because scores of sponsors responded to AAP’s call to sponsor the education of these children,” said the statement.

“When AAP launched an agitation for farmers across the state for fresh farm loans and waiver of crop loans, it was moved by the plight of the families affected by farmer suicides and resolved to do it’s bit to alleviate their suffering,” it added.


Maharashtra: Congress to stall monsoon session of legislature on farmers’ issue

The monsoon session is scheduled to be held from July 13 to July 31.

Maharashtra assembly
File Photo

Opposition Congress will aggressively raise the demand for waiving off farmers’ loans during the forthcoming session of Maharashtra legislature and stall its proceedings over government’s failure to address the “plight” of agriculturists. “The Congress will not let the state legislature function over the demand for loan waiver to farmers. To highlight the plight of the distressed farmers, the Congress will stall both the Houses,” said former state unit party President Manikrao Thakre. The monsoon session is scheduled to be held from July 13 to July 31. Thakre said the incumbent MPCC chief Ashok Chavan will announce the party’s strategy on launching an agitation for farmers during a rally scheduled to be held in Yavatmal on Saturday.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> He accused the BJP-led NDA government in Maharashtra of failing to provide any relief to distressed farmers. “The administration has miserably failed to address the issue of a string of suicides by farmers which continue unabated,” Thakre said referring to Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis’ visit to family members of a deceased farmer in Vidarbha in March.The widow of the farmer recently ended her life due to indebtedness. He said a largescale resentment prevails among farmers not only in Vidarbha but in Marathwada and western Maharashtra as their agricultural produce is not getting adequate market rates. Responding to a query on a row surrounding Education Minister Vinod Tawde’s BE ‘degree’, Thakre said the BJP leader should resign immediately. Congress has termed Tawde’s degree as bogus as a private institute in Pune from where he acquired it is not recognised either by the UGC or AICTE. Also Read: Parliament’s Monsoon session to begin on July 21

Provide relief to farmers or face protests: NCP to CM Fadnavis

Soon after the meeting, held at the state government’s Sahyadri guest house in Malabar Hill, NCP leaders announced they will take to the streets against the BJP-led government in the state if it failed to help distressed farmers.

Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar on Tuesday met Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, seeking relief to farmers affected by drought across the state.Soon after the meeting, held at the state government’s Sahyadri guest house in Malabar Hill, NCP leaders announced they will take to the streets against the BJP-led government in the state if it failed to help distressed farmers.”During Pawar’s recent visit to drought-hit areas of Marathwada, he was informed by people and farmers about the problems faced by them. We have submitted a list of grievances of the common man and farmers in Marathwada to the chief minister,” Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde told reporters.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The Government has failed to deliver in the last five six months. Farmers want money for sowing operations. They don’t have a single penny as there is drought in the region in last three years,” Munde said.”NCP has sought loan waiver for affected farmers. If farmers don’t get a loan waiver and crop insurance amount in next eight days, we will take to the streets,” Munde said.Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said the state government should take a decision on fair and remunerative price (FRP) to sugarcane growers.NCP leader and former minister Rajesh Tope said NCP activists will hold protests at the divisional headquarters in Aurangabad and later on at district and tehsil offices.”There should be a complete farm loan waiver for the affected five districts of Marathwada,” he said.

Sharad Pawar demands higher prices for farm produce in coming season

The former union agriculture minister who is on a three-day visit to the scarcity-hit areas in Marathwada regions was talking to reporters at Chitegaon village.

Sharad Pawar
File Photo

The opposition NCP on Saturday threatened to hit the streets if farmers did not receive higher prices for farm produce in the coming Kharif season. “The current drought is one of the worst Maharashtra has witnessed. To provide relief to farmers, the Centre and the state should come forward and waive farmers’ debts, interest amount and ensure that they receive good price for agricultural produce. Otherwise we will hit the streets with our demands,” NCP chief Sharad Pawar said.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> The former union agriculture minister who is on a three-day visit to the scarcity-hit areas in Marathwada regions was talking to reporters at Chitegaon village in Aurangabad district. “It does not seem that the present government is interested in helping farmers. They seem to be more concerned about industrialists and urban areas,” he said. “The policy of the government seems to be that it is fine if farmers do not receive good price for produce, but there should be no increase in prices (of foodgrains and vegetables) in urban areas,” Pawar said. Also Read: Lunch with Sharad Pawar, farmers rally in Baramati part of PM Modi’s Maharashtra tour

Amid severe heat, 2,000 Maharashtra villages face acute water shortage

Mumbai: With mercury soaring in Maharashtra and the onset of monsoon still a fortnight away, as many as 1,998 villages and 2,607 hamlets are reeling under acute water shortage where about 2,358 tankers are being used to supply drinking water.

Representational Image. AFP

Representational Image. AFP

The number of villages being supplied water through tankers has increased as compared to last year. As per information available till 25 May, about 311 government-owned tankers and 2,047 private ones are supplying drinking water in these areas.

Last year, 2,322 tankers had supplied water to 884 villages and 2,081 wadis (hamlets), an official in the water supply department said.

The Marathwada region, including Aurangabad, Beed, Nanded and Osmanabad districts, is worst affected by the sweltering heat.

As many as 1,265 villages and 455 wadis are facing water shortage and 1,672 tankers are being plied for providing the same, the official said.

However, Sindhudurg, Wardha, Gondia, Bhandara, Chandrapur and Gadchiroli are not facing drinking water shortage, he said.

The situation in Marathwada has worsened as last year 242 villages and 164 wadis in the region had water supply through tankers.

Marathwada is not only facing drinking water shortage, but it has only 8 per cent water in its small, medium and large irrigation projects, as per information till 22 May.

Last year, the region had 22 per cent water storage and in 2013, it was 5 per cent.

There are 2,498 small, medium and large irrigation projects in the state. There are 16 other dams and the total water storage is 21 per cent, which was 25 per cent last year and 20 per cent in 2013.


Maharashtra government tapping corporates for funding anti-drought project

The Siddhivinayak and Shirdi Sai temple trusts had pitched in with Rs1 crore each for 34 districts, with Rs68 crore being collectively raised through this route.

To fund its ambitious Jalyukta Shivar drought alleviation project, the Maharashtra government is tapping the corporate sector for help. This project, which aims at tackling recurring drought in rain-fed areas and ensuring water and moisture security, has covered around 6,000 villages where 30,000 works are underway.An official from the chief minister’s office (CMO) said that they had recently held a conclave with representatives of corporate groups to seek deployment of corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds, technical inputs and know-how for the program. “These companies have already covered around 400 villages, of which some are part of the Jalyukta Shivar program and others are not,” said the official, adding that these works were estimated at Rs200 crore.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The official added: “As these corporates have constraints in providing financial inputs, they can chip in with help for conducting physical work, deploying machinery for tasks like de-silting or even provide diesel for vehicles when villagers are undertaking work through volunteering.”The Siddhivinayak and Shirdi Sai temple trusts had pitched in with Rs1 crore each for 34 districts, with Rs68 crore being collectively raised through this route.More corporate groups including a soft-drink and consumer goods company is also pitching in with inputs and works in villages. This CSR effort will also help fill gaps like funding not being available for some schemes, or a certain area not being entitled to a particular scheme.Apart from constructing structures to store water, Jalyukta Shivar eventually aims at tackling issues like water use, rejuvenating old water storage and irrigation structures and aquifers and changing cropping patterns.In 2012, the state’s economic survey said that irrigation in Maharashtra had risen by just 0.1% to 17.9% from 2001 to 2010, despite Rs70,000 crore being spent on the sector. This had led then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to assure a white paper on the issue, which led to confrontation with the NCP and then deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. The state has around 589 irrigation projects under construction with a balance cost of around Rs72,000 crore.After allegations of corruption in irrigation projects and undue benefits being granted to contractors had surfaced, Pawar resigned in September 2012 only to be sworn in again two months later. Pawar was the irrigation minister from 1999 to 2010. Inception of projectThe Jalyukta Shivar campaign was launched on Republic Day; around 10,000 cement bunds are planned to be constructed in 2015-16 and one lakh wells will be tapped in drought-affected areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada. The state will upload digital photographs of the works along with the latitude and longitude of the projects to ensure transparency. This will also provide an idea of the situation before, during and after the work was executed. Maha’s irrigation coverageMaharashtra’s geographical area is 308 lakh hectare and its cultivable area is 225 lakh hectare. Of this, 40% of the area is drought prone and about 7% is flood prone. The state, which is the third largest in geographical terms, has highly variable rainfall. Maharashtra’s irrigation coverage is much less than the national average of about 45%, despite having the highest number of dams in India.

Maharashtra | Work on stopping farmer suicides: CM Fadnavis tells Babus

After coming to power, the Fadnavis government held a detailed survey of suicide by farmers in two districts on an experimental basis. The Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts have acquired the ill fame of being farmer suicide centres. While Yavatmal is part of the Vidarbha region, Osmanabad is in Marathwada.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday instructed a team of secretaries from various departments to prepare a comprehensive plan to prevent farmers’ suicides in the state.After coming to power, the Fadnavis government held a detailed survey of suicide by farmers in two districts on an experimental basis. The Yavatmal and Osmanabad districts have acquired the ill fame of being farmer suicide centres. While Yavatmal is part of the Vidarbha region, Osmanabad is in Marathwada.Fadnavis held a review meeting of the secretaries from various departments at Sahyadri Guest House. Secretaries from agriculture, revenue, PWD, education, environment, cooperation, health and tribal development and general administration department attended the meeting. The chief minister pointed out that on the lines of the detailed survey of these two districts, a survey for all the other districts should be completed as early as possible. Once the survey is over, a comprehensive policy for preventing suicides can be prepared.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>An official informed that the survey of these two districts has been helpful in identifying the most vulnerable families. He said that on the basis of this survey, the families concerned can be given maximum attention through the district administration so that possible suicides can be prevented.There is a plan to provide financial help, counselling as well as treatment in case of health-related issues, so that members from a vulnerable family can be prevented from taking the extreme step. The chief minister instructed the secretaries to ensure that all the 12,000 primary health centres in the state are provided with necessary facilities and adequate medication as well as other essentials. ‘No fag-end purchases’Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis cautioned all the secretaries to ensure that no purchases are made at the fag-end of a financial year for the sake of utilising budget allocations. He also asked them to opt for transparent tender processes instead of the prevailing method of rate contract.

Brace for higher vegetable prices in Maharashtra as unseasonal rains damage crops

Mumbai: Farmers in the state, who are still reeling under the impact of a hail storm and unseasonal rains in December, were dealt another blow due to the unseasonal rains over the last few days and the state government has now promised quick damage assessment and aid disbursal.

“We are in the process of disbursing aid to farmers affected by drought and recent hailstorms. Around 90 lakh farmers will benefit from it. So far, we have already disbursed aid to 50 lakh farmers,” an official said.

The official added that the prices of vegetables are likely to go up as a result of the damage.

Reuters imageReuters image

Reuters image

Officials said that the unseasonal rains over the last two-three days in Maharashtra have damaged wheat, jowar and chickpea crop, mango orchards, vineyards and pomegranate fields in Marathwada, Vidarbha, Khandesh, Western Maharashtra and Konkan region.

“I have directed all divisional commissioners and collectors to conduct spot inspection of individual farmers impacted by unseasonal rains,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said after reviewing the situation on Monday.

He said that Yavatmal, infamous for farmer suicides in the cotton belt of Vidarbha, was the worst-affected district.

“Also, the crops in Nagpur, Bhandara, Gondiya in Vidarbha region have been affected by it. In some cases, harvested crops and seeds were also destroyed,” he added.

As per the preliminary assessment by government officials, while a total area of 17,000 hectares has been damaged due to rains, it has caused a total loss of around Rs 1,000 crore. It is an estimate and the final figures are not yet available, said the official adding that three persons died after being hit by lightning on Sunday.

In December, crops like grapes, mango, and banana cultivated over 60,000 hectares of land were damaged due to rains and hailstorms. Subsequently, the Maharashtra government asked the Centre for Rs 7,000 crore as relief for farmers. So far, the centre has released only Rs 500 crore. A year ago as well farmers across the state were also affected by hailstorms.

Raju Shetty, president of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtna and an ally of BJP, said despite making big promises to farmers during election campaigns, they have not been given anything so far.

“The farmers were promised of minimum support price for all farm produce but the issue has been ignored so far by the BJP. Even, the union budget has ignored the farmers completely,” Shetty, an MP from Hatkanangale in Western Maharashtra, said.

The Congress and NCP have demanded that the state government should provide the comprehensive package to the affected farmers.

“It is unfortunate that despite seeking the drought relief from Centre, it is not ready to help farmers. Rather than waiting for the help from Modi, government, the state should provide relief to farmers from its coffers,” said Sachin Sawant, congress spokesperson.

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