The third day of Winter Session saw normalcy prevailing in both Houses and Assembly beginning the crucial discussion over drought situation in State. With positive attitude displayed by both Ruling and Opposition members, the Speaker Haribhau Bagde took up the discussion at 11.15 am.
BJP member Chainsukh Sancheti initiated the discussion and declared that the Government, led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, was more than capable to deal with the drought situation prevailing in many parts of the State. “Government is serious in this matter and mitigating the problems of farmers. The present situation is the result of wrong economic policies of Congress-NCP Government that ruled the State for long 15 years. During the 15-year rule, even the required formalities like ‘Panchnama’ were not properly completed and thus resulted in deprivation of relief to farmers,” said Sancheti.
Countering the charge, Congress member Patangrao Kadam defended the Congress-NCP Government’s policies. He said that his Government had extended relief to needy farmers without any delay. “The present Government is requested to introspect their promises made during election campaigning and fulfill them. The Government should take firm measures to overcome the drought situation and announce relief package to affected farmers immediately instead of playing blame-game,” said Kadam.
Charge and counter charge:
Tearing apart Kadam’s contention, Dr Jaiprakash Mundhada of Shiv Sena said that during previous Government’s tenure, the drought was a man made drought. Some parts were without water and some parts were deprived of cattle feed. Now, arrangements for these shortages have to be made. The present Government will give relief to farmers from natural calamities. The farmers will be given support from rain harvesting and roof harvesting as well. Dr Mundhada urged the Government to provide uninterrupted power supply to farmers. The faulty transformers should be replaced within 24 hours. Moreover, farmers should not be forced to repay their loans in the hard time, said Dr Mundhada.
Farmers’ suicides increased: Ajit Pawar:
Speaking during the discussion, former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar blamed the Fadnavis Government for delay in declaring drought in the State. Vidarbha, North Maharashtra and Marathwada regions are reeling under drought. In the coming days, the drought will be felt more intensely. The Government must take decision of supplying water through tankers today only. “During the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis the number of farmers’ suicides has increased. The power bills, crop loans of farmers should be waived and they should be made eligible for fresh loans then only the farmers would be able to farming alive. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be urged to release Rs 10,000 crore for affected farmers,” demanded Ajit Pawar. He further said that if the State Government failed to demand assistance the Central Government should take initiative on its own. The Telangana Government has waived loans of farmers then why not Maharashtra Government, questioned Pawar.
Shashikant Khedkar said, “Sindkhedraja region of Buldana District gets no water supply for 30 days at a stretch.”
Abu Azmi blamed both the previous and present Government for failing to halt farmers’ suicides. “The present Government should ensure distribution of bank loans properly, cooperative loan waivers, free irrigation, free education and medical treatment to children of farmers even if development projects have to be stalled,” said Abu Azmi.
Sanjay Kunte said when the Government is not hesitating in starting costly projects like Metro then why it is hesitating in giving Rs 25-50 crore loans to farmers. The water table of lands in State needs to be increased, said Kunte and added that the previous Government is responsible for precarious condition of farmers.
Dr Ashish Deshmukh said the condition of cotton and soybean farmers is very bad and for improving their lot, ending of backlog is necessary. The previous Government did not bother to end backlog. Farmers have done sowing twice and thrice. They have to irrigate the farms till late into nights due to load-shedding when Maharashtra is a power generating State. The present Government must take measures with a vision and proper planning. Gujarat’s cotton and Madhya Pradesh’s soybean should be experimented in the State for prosperity of farmers.
Chhagan Bhujbal said that the previous Central Government and State Government spent Rs 14,000 crore in the period of 3-4 years for betterment of farmers. The then Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar strived hard for interests of farmers. But the present Minister Radhamohan Singh’s anti-farmer statements in Parliament are hard to understand.
Balasaheb Thorat took a dig at the Ruling Party. “When they were in Opposition they questioned every move of the Government. Now, they are Ruling. It is time for them to take decisions. Our works got shadowed under the dreamy speeches during election. People’s expectations have increased so much that the Ruling Party has developed cold feet. The Congress-NCP Government never returned empty handed from Delhi. Now, the present government should go ahead a step further,” challenged Thorat.
Sambhajirao Patil Nilangekar demanded that the present Government should not distribute relief package through banks but directly to the affected farmers on the basis of Aadhar Cards.
Shashikant Shinde stressed the need for immediate help to farmers and long term measures to tackle drought situations. Let there be any Government, spending for farmers’ welfare needs daring. If Government failed to meet demands, agitation will be a certainty.
Gulabrao Patil said that the oldest and senior-most member B T Deshmukh has been raising only one issue since the past 52 years. The issue drinking water and drought. But till date the problem is as it is. The 288 members are dependent on farmers. Appropriate help is not reaching the farmers through the banks. Therefore, the MLA Fund be raised by Rs 50 lakh and the amount be spent on agriculture matters mandatorily or the districts be allocated to the ministers for direct assistance to the farmers.
Amit Deshmukh said that there is BJP Government at Centre and State. The farmers got duped by “Achhe Din” promise. Drinking water schemes should be started in Vidarbha and Marathwada. Similarly, for Latur, Government should find a separate source of water.
Bacchu Kadu lamented that no party in Government is beneficial for farmers. The Democratic Front Government members after occupying Opposition benches are playing the role of students. Then then Opposition after coming to power have developed cold feet. The ministers during their short tenure still have not reached the homes of farmers who committed suicides. Modi Government has surprised all by keeping onions in essential commodities. Will the non-consumers of onions die? It is certain that even if I become Chief Minister, I cannot give proper price to onions as per demands but measures can be taken to curb the prices.
Yashomati Thakur asserted that the Government has changed but the machinery (babus) is the same. What are they doing? Vidarbha State should be taken care of. Package should be such that entire population would appreciate the Chief Minister. MLA Fund should be increased by Rs 50 lakh to be meant for spending on agriculture sector. Cotton procurement price should be increased to Rs 6000 per quintal and Rs 7000 for Soybean.
Sandeep Rathi said 400 farmers committed suicides in two months. MLA Fund should be increased by Rs 1 crore and not by Rs 50 lakh for halting farmers’ suicides.
Arjunrao Khotkar said the Government should come forward for saving citrus fruit farms. If river beds are deepened then the droughts can be tackled easily. Politics is being played in the State in the name of water. Suicides in a progressive state like Maharashtra are a blot. Power at the cost of suicides is not acceptable. If not stopped when the time is in hands, the suicides would be uncountable.
The discussion was scheduled to end at 6 pm but Speaker, on the demand of members, extended the time by one hour. The discussion went beyond 7 pm.
The Chief Minister Fadnavis assured the House that Government will give its reply tomorrow (Thursday).