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Maharashtra declares drought in 14,708 villages

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has declared a “drought-like condition” in 14,708 of the state’s 43,000 villages. This means the drought covers 34% of the state.

This is the second successive year of drought in Maharashtra. In fact, the state has experienced three such calamities in the last four years.

The region of Marathwada has been worst-hit, with a drought-like condition declared in every single village. As many as 8,522 villages in the region have been impacted. This accounts for 58% of the drought area in the state.

North Maharashtra, which includes Nashik and Jalgaon districts, follows next with 4,869 villages impacted. This accounts for 33% of the drought area. The region of Konkan has been spared, with not a single village affected by the calamity. The Konkan region experienced a plentiful monsoon this year.

“We have declared a drought-like condition earlier than usual. It is usually declared in December after a final assessment of crop loss,” said state revenue minister Eknath Khadse, responding to the opposition’s criticism that the state was not taking the crisis seriously.

The state can declare a drought-like condition only after an assessment of crop yield. Villages where the harvest is less than half the average yield come under this category.

The government has announced a series of measures for drought-affected farmers, including the waiver of land revenue and school fees for their children and a 33% waiver in the bill amount of agricultural pumps. The government has also said it will provide water tankers in scarcity-prone villages and take steps not to disconnect agricultural pumps.

So far, Rs 920 crore has been provided for drought relief, of which Rs 556 crore has come from the Centre. Another Rs 556 crore is expected from the government, officials said.

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