Social activist P Sainath may have once famously said “everybody loves a good drought”, because of the monetary spin offs that a drought generates for some. But this government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis surely had its task cut out when it took over reins of power in October 2014. By then the 2014 monsoon had failed us, 2015 monsoon was no better. The agrarian crisis was already assuming alarming proportions. It seems as though the government failed to read the writing on the wall that for the last four years Marathwada region in particular has been facing its worst agrarian crisis in decades.
The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that Latur Municipal Corporation in Marathwada region is perhaps the only one in the country to have announced on the megaphone that it can no longer supply drinking water to the people. And it could neither say when again it would be able to do so in the near future. Not only the poor who are the first to migrate, now even more than a lakh families that includes even the rich and business community are contemplating migrating elsewhere.
Agreed, there have been instances of rampant corruption in the past when it comes to supplying drinking water by tankers, opening up cattle fodder camps, restructuring or waiving off bad agricultural loans, timely disbursal of crop insurance and subsidies, water supply schemes and many more. Some years ago then leader of opposition in legislative council, Nitin Gadkari had accused the government of indulging in corruption even in the cow dung generated from the cattle camps in drought hit regions. Mistrust and anger that spilled on Minister for School Education Vinod Tawde is a manifestation of that deep seated anger of those who have been marginalised completely in the process.
District Cooperative Banks controlled by politicians and political parties have defaulted on loan recovery and bad debts. Each year they want the government to write-off these bad loans of small town Vijay Mallyas. Since the past subsequent governments have not been able to do anything to curb the menace of money lenders who often with political patronage have driven the farmers to commit suicides. In the trickledown effect of subsidies and loan waivers the farmers have got bread crumbs in the process, leaving the largesse lining up the pockets of a chosen politically powerful.
The response from this government has been half-hearted, half-measures and U turns on its earlier announcements. At a time when people and cattle are being forced to migrate, the government came out with a circular ordering closure of cattle fodder camps on the argument that there was ample ogreen fodder available. The government has been trumpeting about its flagship program of 'Jalyukt Shivar' aimed at boosting, recharging underground water aquifers, digging, widening, desilting now silted water bodies to hold rain water. There is no parallel program of afforestation to go along with it. Because without forest one cannot expect a bountiful monsoon.
Diversification in agriculture has never been advocated where cash crops and heavily water dependent crops like sugarcane rule the roost. Because the heavily politicised cooperative sector, the bedrock of political power for some will not allow it to happen. Now digging borewells is also not an option as water tables underground have sunk even further than 1,000 meters below. Minister for Finance and Planning Sudhir Mungantiwar already knows it and has taken the cue from Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in focusing on agriculture in his state budget due on March 18 next.