Maharashtra declares drought in 42% of state

The Maharashtra government declared a drought in 151 of the state’s 358 talukas, or 42% of the state. The affected talukas are located in 26 of the state’s 36 districts and as many as 112 face severe drought.

This is the third drought in the state—after 2014-15 and 2015 -16—in the last five years. The state will now send the Centre a memorandum asking for assistance under the National Disaster Relief Fund.

The dry belt of Marathwada is the worst hit, with as many as 44 talukas facing severe drought and three a moderate one. North Maharashtra is also badly affected, with 33 talukas facing a severe drought and six a moderate version. In both these regions, every district is drought -hit. Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra have also been hit. In the Konkan, only one district has been impacted.

At the end of the monsoon, the state had reported 77% of normal rainfall between June and September. Besides rainfall and ground water level, the lowered moisture content in the soil as a result of a dry spell of 21-28 days, extent of sowing, vegetation cover and crop loss were among the parameters used to assess the drought according to the Centre’s drought manual for 2016.

State’s drought-hit farmers entitled to monetary relief

To qualify for “trigger 1” drought assessment, the talukas had to report a rainfall deficit of below 75% of normal rain and a dry spell of 21 to 28 days. The “trigger 2” level examined the impact of water deficiency on soil moisture and vegetation cover. For the third stage, the state conducted “ground truthing” or an eye survey of five major crops in 10% of the affected area, to assess if 33% or more of the crop has been impacted.

To qualify for severe drought, three of four key impact indicators have to apply. For a moderate drought, two impact indicators have to apply.

Drought-affected areas are also entitled to relief under the NDRF. This entitles farmers to Rs.6,800 per acre for unirrigated crops and Rs.13,000 per hectare for irrigated crops.

With dry conditions taking grip, the state had on October 23 declared relief for 180 talukas that reported trigger 2 level drought assessment. They are entitled to relief from the state, including exemption from land taxes, school/college fee waiver, restructuring of cooperative loans and exemption from the repayment of agriculture loans. Also, electricity connections cut over non-payment of bill are reinstated and a waiver of 33.5% on electricity bills is offered for agricultural pumps.

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