In drought year, Maharashtra CM, deputy CM have tough budget ahead
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Water resources, agriculture and rural development departments seek higher allocation.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, believed to have been asked by the Congress higher-ups to steer the party in Maharashtra in the 2014 elections, has embarked on a mission to streamline the administration to tackle the drought, the biggest problem faced by the government as of now. Chavan has reportedly told the party leadership in Delhi that the next four months will be very crucial.
To work out a plan for drought relief, Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Ajit Pawar of ally NCP, too, has been holding discussions over increased allocation in the 2013-14 budget for the mitigation efforts.
Sources indicated that the state government may set aside Rs 1,000 crore in the state budget for drought relief, and mobilise resources from various departments, including the water resources ministry to combat the drought.
There are also talks of higher allocations for the water resources, agriculture, and rural development departments to tackle the drought crisis in Marathwada, northern Maharashtra and western Maharashtra.
A senior minister said, "The total allocation for these three departments will account for a third of the budget."
Water resources allocation is likely to cross Rs 7,500 crore. The agriculture department, too, is seeking higher allocation saying farmers who have suffered crop loss need to be adequately compensated through schemes under the ministry.
Government officials say that financial help from the Centre will take time and until then, the state cannot be seen as lacking in resources to tackle shortage of drinking water, foodgrain and fodder in several thousand villages, where crops have failed.
Chavan who, sources said, has indicated to the Congress leadership in Delhi that the next four months would be crucial, has asked Congress ministers in the state to visit drought-hit areas at least twice a week and will next week himself make a three-day tour of Marathwada, one of the worst affected areas.
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