Maharashtra not to snap power supply to farmers

Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan said power supply to farmers in the drought-prone areas of the state will not be cut off due to outstanding bills.

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday said power supply to farmers in the drought-prone areas of the state will not be cut off due to
outstanding bills.

Chavan told the Legislative Assembly that the state government was considering making a financial provision to enable the state utility `MahaVitaran` to meet conditions of the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) which
has fixed norms regarding limit of such bills.

"There is a GR (government regulation) with farmer-specific instructions that outstanding bills should not be the reason for snapping electricity connection. If it is
done, the supply should be re-connected," he said replying to a debate on the issue of drought-like conditions prevailing in the state.

Chavan said his government was mulling over making payment to the power distribution companies in order to meet the conditions of the MERC.

Informing that he was in touch with the union agriculture minister on providing assistance to farmers facing crop losses due to drought-like conditions, the chief minister said, "one suggestion is that of providing aid per quintal which can be shared equally by the state and the centre, while another is a market intervention scheme".

"However, past experiences have not been good. One of these two suggestions would be implemented after thorough deliberations," he added.

Admitting that the drought-like situation was "serious", Chavan said he would meet the Opposition members during the ongoing Budget session on the issue, saying the government will extend helping hand to the distressed farmers.

He said new tankers were being brought and pressed into service in districts as per the needs. At present, 421 tankers are supplying drinking water to more than 400 villages and hamlets as on March 17.

Chavan further said that he had instructed all guardian ministers to visit their respective districts even during the session to take stock of the situation.

"I will also travel to the drought-prone areas during the weekends," he said.

The chief minister said Rs 1500 crore would be spent on the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS)-related works, adding that the number of labourers have gone upto six lakh.

The rate of payment for EGS works is increased from Rs 127 to Rs 145 from April 1, he said.

Chavan also informed that fodder depots have been opened wherever required. "As many as 50 such depots have been opened so far where 545 metric tonne fodder is provided to farmers," he added.

The government has also undertaken a fodder programme at the cost of Rs 50 crore.

Blaming erratic monsoon for lower crop output, Chavan said the average rainfall for last year stood at 102 per cent.

"It was a worrying situation because of which prices and output saw a decrease. This is the reason why an Rs 2000 crore package was announced in the winter session," Chavan said.

Admitting that there was a delay in disbursing the package, the chief minister said,"it took time to collect details of beneficiaries".

"I have issued directives that the money be disbursed immediately," he said.

Chavan further said the Central policies, including ban on export of cotton (which was subsequently rolled back), resulted in the decline of prices of cotton, sugar and onion.

"In each of the cases, we opposed and caused ban to be lifted but delay in that period also impacted the prices," he said.

Chavan said the government had requested Centre to totally waive off the minimum export price of onions from current USD 125 per quintal.