As heavy showers induced by the retreating monsoon continue to batter Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday said that while the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government would do everything in power to help farmers, the Centre must step in to help as well.
Mr. Pawar, who commenced his two-day tour of the rain-hit districts in the Marathwada region on Sunday, further said that he, along with other MPs from Maharashtra, would be going to Delhi in the next 8-10 days to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and seek financial assistance for the afflicted farmers.
Croplands have suffered tremendous damage as a result of the excess rain&While sugarcane, paddy, tur, and soybean crops have been destroyed, in some cases, the agricultural soil has been washed away. It is not possible for farmers to recoup losses of such magnitude in a short time. So, while the State is firmly behind the farmers in this grave hour, there are some limitations to the assistance it can give, the NCP chief said in Osmanabad district.
The solution to this crisis must be jointly sought by the State and the Centre, said Mr. Pawar, former Union Agriculture Minister.
Earlier, Mr. Pawar met farmers in some of the worst-hit villages of Osmanabads Lohara tehsil, while surveying the damage to their crops by incessant rain that have been pelting Marathwada for the last one week.
Consoling the farmers, the NCP chief, reminded villagers of the destruction and loss of life suffered during the 1993 earthquake in Marathwada. We got through that terrible crisis [1993 earthquake] and we will come through this present calamity as well, Mr. Pawar said.
In the political race to lend succour to Maharashtras farmers, the 79-year-old Mr. Pawar has yet again stolen a march over both Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray his coalition partner in the MVA as well as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis by beginning his tour ahead of them.
Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Fadnavis will begin their respective tours in Solapur and Baramati (Mr. Pawars bastion) on Monday. Mr. Pawars visit to Osmanabad on Sunday is also noteworthy for the fact that it marks exactly a year when he delivered a much-publicised, eye-catching pre-election speech in Satara amid rain.
The Maratha strongmans speech became a visual shorthand for the Oppositions fight against the BJP in the Maharashtra Assembly polls, and did much to rally public opinion behind the NCP in the final results.
Meanwhile, the BJPs Rajya Sabha MP, Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje, too visited Osmanabad on Sunday.
Speaking at Tamalwadi in Tuljapur, Mr. Sambhajiraje urged the CM to leave every other work and focus only on alleviating the plight of the farmers.
Farmers are in dire straits as the rain has destroyed their kharif crops. The rabi sowing season is in great peril as well owing to the condition of their water-logged fields. I urge the State government to declare immediate cash benefits of 50,000 per hectare for every afflicted farmer. I will soon be meeting Mr. Thackeray and submit a detailed report, he said.
Authorities estimate that the retreating monsoon has destroyed more than seven lakh hectares of harvest-ready crops in districts in western Maharashtra and Marathwada, with Solapur, Osmanabad and Latur ranking as the worst-hit.