The NCP chief said the losses were considerably higher in some districts such as Osmanabad, Latur, Nanded, Solapur and Pune.
The agricultural devastation wrought by the retreating monsoon had thrust Maharashtra in the grip of an unprecedented economic crisis, said Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Monday while urging the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government to take loans in order to pull out farmers of the present financial mire.
“I will be making an earnest request to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in this regard. The State government will have to borrow and secure maximum loans to compensate for loss of agricultural land. I see no other alternative to ameliorate the present situation,” said Mr. Pawar, observing that the excess rains had not only ravaged croplands but had also wrecked village infrastructure besides killing innumerable livestock.
The NCP chief was speaking in Tuljapur in rain-wracked Osmanabad district on the second day of his tour of the afflicted areas in the State’s Marathwada region.
He said while many districts in the State had been hit hard by heavy showers, the losses were considerably higher in some districts such as Osmanabad, Latur, Nanded, Solapur and Pune.
‘Soybean, sugarcane drop damaged’
“In certain tehsils in these acutely-afflicted districts, the destruction wrought is unimaginable…while crops like soybean and sugarcane have rotted or been damaged, the swollen rivers and streams have destroyed pipelines while washing away fertile agricultural soil and destroying village roads. Had only the crops been damaged, the effect may have been limited to the next sowing season, but this time, the entire agricultural system has been smashed by the excess rains,” Mr. Pawar said, expressing concern that farmers would be facing grave challenges in the near future.
He said that the State government would have to make heavy investments to revive the rural infrastructure rendered decrepit by the retreating monsoon showers. It was imperative for the Centre to step in and help the State government in this critical hour.
“This is an economic crisis of historic proportions that has befallen Maharashtra. While the State government is doing whatever it can, can it cope single-handedly? The Centre will have to help the State’s farmers,” said the former Union Agriculture Minister.
‘Everyone must unite’
Mr. Pawar said that he had heard that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a phone conversation with Mr. Thackeray, had assured of help to Maharashtra’s farmers.
“Everyone must come together to help Maharashtra…During elections, we politicians may hurl barbs at each other, but we have to unite in moments of crises. At the time of the 2001 earthquake in Bhuj in Gujarat, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had handed over the responsibility of organising relief to me. Despite being the leader of the BJP, which was in power at the Centre, he [Mr. Vajpayee] never discriminated politicians along party lines,” he said.
Responding to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis’ tour of rain-hit Baramati (the bastion of the Pawar clan), Mr. Pawar said that the former Chief Minister was welcome to visit.
“If anyone is doing something to help farmers, it is welcome. They need all the help they can get.”
At the same time, in a pointed remark directed at the Opposition’s criticism of the ruling MVA government, Mr. Pawar said that the BJP in the State seemed to believe they had a magic wand to resolve this crisis immediately.
“If that is the case, then we request that they [Opposition BJP] also teach us a little magic in private to enable us to help afflicted farmers,” said the NCP chief.