Sharad Pawar seeks complete farm loan waiver in flood-hit districts of Maharashtra

Sharad Pawar said floods have caused large-scale loss to farming and dairy business. (Photo: PTI)

NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday demanded a complete loan waiver for farmers in the flood-ravaged Sangli and Kolhapur districts of Maharashtra taking into account “unprecedented” loss caused to agriculture.

Sharad Pawar said the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the state should forthwith announce to waive farms loans of cultivators in these western Maharashtra districts.

The former Union agriculture minister said floods have caused large-scale loss to farm and dairy business in Sangli and Kolhapur districts.

“I have seen several floods, but looking at the overall scope of the flood in these areas and the agricultural position of the region, I can say the people are facing unprecedented loss due to the flood situation,” said Pawar.

He said there should be a speedy assessment of the damage caused by the floods to arrive at the adequate compensation amount for the affected people.

“Once the flood situation improves, the government should start ‘panchanamas’ (on-spot inspections) of the losses and on that basis, a decision should be taken to pay compensation.

“Due to flooding, it is clear that farming and dairy business in the region will be destroyed so the state and Centre should take a decision of giving 100 per cent loan waiver to farmers,” he demanded.

He claimed the government machinery is virtually absent in the flood-affected areas.

“Currently, the picture in the flood-hit areas is that there is no government machinery and this is due to several reasons, but right now I do not want to get into that,” the NCP leader said.

The former chief minister said looking at the current situation, social organisations and NGOs should come together to provide help to the flood-hit people.

He said all elected representatives of the NCP have decided to donate one month salary for flood relief and rehabilitation efforts.

More than two lakh people have been evacuated from flood-affected areas till now.

Pawar said instead of getting into blame-game and politics, social organisations, NGOs, political parties should join hands to provide help to the affected people.

“We will later go into the details of why such a situation has arisen and where the government has lacked,” the NCP leader said.

Talking about the issue related to discharge of water from the Almatti dam in Karnataka, he said the controversy over the dam has been going on for several years.

“We (when in power), too, had discussed our stand on the issue of dam’s water storage capacity at several times. In my opinion, on several occasions, the dam’s backwater spreads till Sangli and people of the district have to pay a price for it. So the Karnataka government needs to take a humanitarian approach towards this issue,” he said.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said the Karnataka government had agreed to discharge water from Almatti dam on the Krishna river, which would ease the flooding in western Maharashtra.

Pawar said even if the state government is lacking in efforts to tackle the flood situation, the Centre should step in and direct organisations to provide relief in the affected areas.

He took a swipe at Fadnavis and said such situations demand prompt action from the state administration.

“During the Killari earthquake (in Latur district in 1993), the earthquake had taken place at around 4.30 am and I (Pawar was then Chief Minister) reached Latur at 7 am and I was there for the next two weeks. I think the efficiency of the entire state machinery depends on the head of the government and its approach towards that issue,” he said.

Pawar said Sangli and Kolhapur districts are part of the sugar belt and the entire crop has gone underwater.

“We, at Vasantdada Sugar Institute, have formed ten teams of sugar experts, who will visit the flood-affected region after the situation improves. All these experts will see if something can be done to save the sugarcane crop and wherever the crop has been destroyed, the experts will provide seeds to farmers,” he said.

When pointed that most political parties are currently busy with their own ‘yatras’ in the state and asked if they should stop them to focus on flood relief work, Pawar said the NCP’s programme was limited to the drought-affected region.

“Our entire programme was of five days but it will be stopped now,” he informed.

Sharad Pawar informed the NCP’s doctor cell is ready to provide help to the affected people.

“As far as medical help, the supply of medicines is concerned, the NCP’s team of doctors will visit the flood-affected districts to provide aid,’ he added.