As drought conditions in Maharashtra worsen by the day, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned that relief from the heavens, in the form of rainfall, could take a little longer. IMD forecasts suggest rainfall for 2019 has been delayed by at least a week. This means it will be another month, at least, before monsoons reach the beleaguered state.
"Interior Maharashtra and the Marathwada regions receive very little rainfall. All depends on synoptic situation, rainfall pattern, so water conservation has to be there," Shubhangi Bhute, a scientist with the IMD, told NDTV.
The IMD's warning is bad news for people in the state - people like 60-year-old Manda Jadhav, who sits by the road waiting for a water tanker to reach her, once in two days, in Honsal village in Solapur district, which lies over 400 km from Mumbai.
She has six members in her family and this acute water crisis means there is very little to go around.
"I am sitting in this scorching heat for water. If I miss the tanker I will have to walk three kilometers to fetch water. There is no water for farmers and households as well. It is very difficult to manage," Jadhav said.
Declining water level in reservoirs across the state is a very serious issue - they have dropped by two per cent in the last week alone, according to S Masoud Hussain, Chairman of the Central Water Commission. Water levels in the Marathwada region are below the half per cent mark in nine reservoirs. Eight other reservoirs have dried up.
The government has been forced to declare a drought across nearly half the state and demand for water tankers shot up to 5,493 till May 16; this is the highest in the past five years, four of which have been droughts.
Opposition stalwart and NCP chief Sharad Pawar met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday to discuss what he called the worst drought in more than 47 years and asked the government to expedite drought relief work.
Chief Minister Fadnavis has said the state has disbursed over 4,400 crores into the bank accounts of the people affected and doubled pay-outs to fodder camps.
"Whatever resources we have, will have to make proper use of those. We have given instructions about water usage. First priority should be drinking water and not agriculture," revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said.
However, earlier this week the Bombay High Court pulled up the state government for not taking the situation seriously enough.
A vacation bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and NJ Jamadar said, "The issue is serious. We want some lawyer from the state government to inform us what measures the government proposes to take (to tackle the issue)."
The court is expected to hear the matter again on May 20.
With both assembly elections only six months away, the opposition is demanding answers and has targeted the BJP-led state administration.
"It raises important questions. What happened to much touted Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan (a water conservation program)? What happened to tankers on demand? What happened to Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana?" former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan asked.
"All this is on paper only. If they would have worked, we wouldn't have had this crisis", he said.