Mumbai: Maharashtra`s Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar has squarely blamed the Congress party and the governments that it has run in the state for the ongoing drought that has left hundreds of thousands of people in various districts in a parched and hapless state.
Participating in ETV`s "The JC Show" in Mumbai, Mungantiwar spoke on the crisis brought on by the drought as well on several other important issues related both to the BJP and the government it runs in Maharashtra under the leadership of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Coming specifically to the drought-related crisis that has ravaged most parts of Maharashtra, Mungantiwar told Head, ETV News, Jagdish Chandra, that the state government is taking all necessary steps to provide enough water to the people and is particularly focused on all irrigation-related matters.
"Congress brought this distress to the farmers. We are providing water through trains in Latur but our main worry is what development has the Congress done till now? The condition has become so worse that we have to deliver water through trains, Mungantiwar told ETV.
Defending the policies of the Devendra Fadnavis-led state government with regard to the measures taken to counter the drought, Mungantiwar told Chandra, "Even a state like Rajasthan is ahead of us in terms of dealing with water-related issues. Wherein, in terms of the scarcity of water, we have only been able to irrigate 18 percent of our state because of the water problem. That is why I am focusing on irrigation. The people of Rajasthan know the value of water, I have heard that Rajasthan is starting 3500 Jalyukta camps."
"We are ranked 28th in irrigation among the 29 states. We have provided relief through budget. We have reduced the expense in this budget and provided concession on crops," the Maharashtra finance minister added.
"Maharashtra`s budget is a budget of the farmers. The development rate has increased. Farmers did not develop during Congress rule."
Mungantiwar`s comments assume significance in the wake of Maharashtra facing its worst drought in almost half a century. Millions of families have seen their crops destroyed, lost their livestock and suffered from life-threatening water shortages over several months.
There are reports of 50-wagon trains carrying 2.5 million litres of water daily and still not being able to sufficiently meet the needs of the population.
Maharashtra`s Latur District is the worst hit in the state, with people standing in line for as long three to five hours in scorching heat to fill two pitchers of water.
Regarded as India`s most prosperous state, Maharashtra has long been prone to drought, but this year, has been hit harder than in previous years because of poor rainfall.
There are reports of mismanagement and a continued diversion of water to large industries like sugar and liquor, which some experts claim has worsened the situation.
The state government, however, denies this charge and maintains that every effort is being made to end the crisis and ease the plight of the common man.
According to government estimates, around 330 million people - a quarter of India`s population - have been affected by the drought, which is only expected to become more severe as temperatures rise across the country during the summer.