This Article is From Oct 03, 2015

For Maharashtra's Drought-Hit Farmers, Rs 400 Crores From Aam Aadmi

In July this year, on his birthday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis urged citizens to financially help his government resolve the drought situation in Maharashtra. (Agence France-Presse photo)

Mumbai: In a country where income tax collections have historically been low is it possible that the people themselves would willingly loosen their purse strings?

A whopping Rs 400 crores - that's how much Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' office said people have willingly donated to the Maharashtra government's ambitious project Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan to make the 25,000 villages in the state drought-free by 2019.

This came after the state was hit by the Rs 70,000 crore-irrigation scam in the previous regime led by the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.

In July this year, on his birthday, Mr Fadnavis urged citizens to financially help his government resolve the drought situation in Maharashtra.

And then there was no stopping, the government says. From villagers to farmers to government employees to Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar to cricketer Ajinkya Rahane to spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar - it has been an enthusiastic surge of contributions.

And the benefits are being distributed remarkable transparency, claims Kishor Tiwari an activist  who is now chairman of the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavalamban Mission - a government body which oversees the distribution of relief to distressed farmers.

"The difference is that there has been a policy shift from big dams of the Congress-NCP government to micro-irrigation projects which are de-centralised. Most importantly, there is very little corruption," he claimed.

The government said that work had started in 6,180 villages in the first phase and 1,20,485 small projects were completed. In nearly 3,000 villages, work worth about Rs 300 crores were done through people's participation which includes contribution of machinery.

Maharashtra's farmer suicide belt extends from Vidarbha to the Marathwada region. In the latter alone, this year 740 farmers have killed themselves hit by the agrarian crisis as compared to 574 who committed suicide in 2014.

Though the impact of the scheme couldn't be seen as much this year as it has hardly rained, when the skies opened up two weeks ago, farm ponds and canals were immediately filled to the brim.