Mumbai : “Fodder camps have been closed down on a temporary basis and they can be started again if there is a demand at the local level,” said minister for revenue, relief and rehabilitation, Eknath Khadse, clarifying the State government’s stand here on Tuesday.

The Mumbai High Court had asked the State government for an explanation for its decision to shut down cattle fodder camps in drought affected Beed, Osmanabad and Latur districts. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has directed the cabinet sub-committee to reconsider its earlier decision.

In a damning admission the State government had earlier informed the High Court that so far in the past 47 days 124 farmers in the state have committed suicides. The High Court then sought an explanation from the government regarding the decision to shut down the fodder camps.

In a statement issued here, Chief Minister Fadnavis stated that he had apprised Khadse that the cabinet sub-committee he heads on the issue should reconsider the decision to shut down fodder camps for cattle.

“I have apprised him (Khadse) of the feelings of the legislators and ministers. At present fodder is available in abundance. However, if locals so demand, the camps should be allowed to run,” said Fadnavis.

Khadse on the other hand said, “At present the fodder camps are temporarily shut down. Cattle fodder is available. If there is demand to reopen cattle fodder camps we shall reopen them.” “Many farmers are taking their cattle away from the fodder camps and hence the camps have been temporarily closed. As we receive the demand from the farmers the cattle fodder camps shall be reopened. The fodder is available in adequate quantities,” he said adding that the fodder camps in Beed, Osmanabad and Latur too have been temporarily shut.

Meanwhile, a senior state BJP leader, speaking on conditions of anonymity, remarked that the fodder camps are often run by local musclemen who eye the government subsidy. “Exorbitant input costs required to set up the camps deter farmers from doing so on their own. Besides this, as per government norms, a minimum of 150 cattle have to be present at the camp during the inspection. However, the farmers take back their cattle home in the evening as they are unwilling to stay back,” the leader said.

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