MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday declared drought in 151 talukas in 26 districts.
At least 112 talukas are facing severe drought and 39 talukas are facing moderate drought.
On October 23, the state government had declared that 180 talukas were facing drought-like conditions.
The 26 districts that are now facing drought comprise eight districts each in the Vidarbha and the Marathwada regions, five districts in North Maharashtra, four districts in western Maharashtra and Palghar district in the coastal Konkan region.
At least 13 talukas in Jalgaon district in north Maharashtra are affected by severe drought, followed by Ahmednagar and Beed (11 talukas each), Solapur and Aurangabad districts (9 talukas each).
Other districts that are affected by drought are as follows: Pune, Sangli, Satara, Palghar, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalna, Nanded, Parbhani, Osmanabad, Hingoli, Latur, Akola, Amravati, Buldhana, Washim, Yavatmal, Chandrapur, Nagpur and Wardha.
"The ground truthing/verification was done and based on indicators of rainfall deficit, reservoir storage, ground water index, soil moisture, the drought was declared," a Revenue department official said.
The opposition Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had accused the BJP-led government of shirking its responsibility by not declaring drought in the state and hiding behind vague terminology such as "drought-like" or "scarcity-like" conditions.
The opposition Congress accused the ruling dispensation of "delay" in making the announcement, which it said might deprive the state of the Central funds.
Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan also alleged the state government had failed to abide by the "2016 Central drought manual" under which it is supposed to notify Kharif drought by October 30.
"As per the manual, the state governments have to declare drought through a notification specifying clearly the geographical extent and administrative units such as gram panchayats, blocks, mandals, talukas, sub-division and districts.
"Such notification should indicate the level of severity of the drought (moderate or severe)," he said.
Chavan, who had served as the chief minister between November 2010 to September 2014, said the declaration of Kharif drought should be done by October 30 and that of Rabi drought by March 31.
"The state governments will declare the calamity as drought and not by any other nomenclature," he said.
He said the Maharashtra government had issued an order, dated October 7, 2017 listing a procedure and time table that is supposed to be followed while declaring drought.
"Instead of implementing this procedure, the government is busy celebrating its fourth anniversary in office. Andhra Pradesh had declared drought on August 8 and Karnataka on September 14. The two states have already started implementing drought-relief measures," Chavan said.
He questioned whether the delay in declaring drought was due to "lack of funds" in the state exchequer.
"Doesn't it (the government) know that the Central funds will not be received due to delay in declaring drought. Who will be responsible if farmers take any extreme steps in the wake of such a crisis," Chavan questionned.
The NCP also slammed the state government for delay in declaring drought.
"As many as 100 talukas in the state are still reeling under drought," alleged Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde, hours after the drought was announced.
He demanded a compensation at Rs 50,000 per hectare for farmers who suffered crop loss due to drought.
Munde's counterpart in the Legislative Assembly and senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil also echoed the same demands.
Maharashtra state Congress president Ashok Chavan said the government was "compelled" to declare drought because of the pressure being exerted by his party.
He said 20,000 village in 201 talukas are reeling under drought. Chavan demanded "concrete steps" for drought mitigation.
(With PTI Inputs)