All the ministers have been asked to go back to their constituencies to survey extent of damage even as govt calls special cabinet meeting to approve the financial compensation to the 27 affected districts
Mumbai : A severe hailstorm has been wreaking havoc in Vidarbha and Marathwada, North and Western regions of the state since the last two weeks. In all 27 districts of the state have been experiencing off-season hail and rain. Except for Mumbai, Thane and Konkan, the hailstorm has claimed nearly 22 people and injured 101. The toll is likely to go up to 50. Even 2,744 cattle heads and birds have been reportedly killed. The number is expected to increase after the survey, declared by the state government.
The minute Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was given a run-down of the severity of this situation, he called for a meeting of prominent departments, mainly relief and rehabilitation, revenue, agricultural, horticulture, animal husbandry and finance departments.
Chavan contacted the Chief Election Commission and informed him of the drastic situation in Maharashtra. The CEC has given permission to the state government to declare a compensation package, while taking care not to violate the model code of conduct.
The government has called upon a special cabinet to approve the financial compensation to the rain-affected areas. “A committee from the Central government will go to visit the affected areas, and prepare a survey,” said Milind Mhaiskar, secretary for relief and rehabilitation.
Large areas of Baramati, Nagpur and Pune were hit by rain even on Monday.
The hail carpeted fields, farms and highways in Beed, Latur, Nashik, Dhule, Satara, Pune, Nagpur and other places.
Congress and all politicians have been asking the Chief Minister to undertake the survey immediately and he will embark on Tuesday, beginning with Solapur, Osmanabad and Aurangabad. The poll campaign has been literally set aside, with the hailstorm issue being raised by all parties. All the ministers have been asked to head back to their constituencies and check on the extent of damage. This tragedy has spurred all political parties to tour hail-affected areas. The two Lok Sabha candidates of Beed, mainly Gopinath Munde, the sitting MP and Suresh Dhas, the state agricultural minister have been touring extensively the areas in Marathwada.
The scramble to declare compensation has also begun. Munde taunted the ministers, “Don’t rush to wipe the tears of the people, instead the farmers need financial help. The government should declare a package to the affected.” Munde has said that the damage in Marathwada is above Rs 5,000 crore.
In fact, among the first to visit has been Sharad Pawar who went on a survey. He in fact cautioned the state government and the concerned ministers to take immediate action, else the people would determine the future of these ministers at the ballot. “Do the panchnama of the affected crops, cattle, extent of damage and condole the dead, else the people of this state will do a panchnama of the politicians,” was a strong statement made by Pawar. Pawar’s plane had to make an emergency landing and he was among the first ministers to make a visit on a bullock cart.
Meanwhile, another leader of opposition, Subhash Desai of Shiv Sena has demanded that the state government freeze loan recovery of the affected farmers. “As per the government policy, in times of calamity, the Public Sector companies have to freeze the recovery, which has not been done in this case,” said Desai.
Maharashtra state Congress president, Manikrao Thakre asked the chief minister to compensate the hail-affected farmers. “The farmers who have food crops should get Rs 2000 per hectare and Rs 50,000 per hectare for fruit crops, is what I’ve asked him and the government to compensate. The damage is extensive and something that has not been seen in last 50 years,” said Thakre.
The fact is the panchnamas are still under way and it will take a while before the government can tell the extent of damage. “The loss has been extensive, and as per our records, 9,40,000 hectares of land and crops have been damaged, in fact we fear the damage is upto nearly 15,00,000 hectares,” said Thakre. MPCC has asked for a loan waiver and six months’ waiver of power bill of farmers.
Meanwhile, all district collectors have been asked to prepare precise ground reports and submit to the government.