Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Drought tourism is in full swing : After Pawar And Chavan, Guv Plans Tour

Mumbai: First it was NCP president and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar who went on a whistle-stop tour of drought-affected Marathwada. He was followed by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is from the Congress. Now governor K Sankaranarayanan is also planning to interact with people in drought-hit parts of the state in the first week of March.

Amid all the coming and going, the question people are asking is whether these tours, particularly the ones undertaken by Pawar and Chavan, will help the state tackle the worst-ever drought in recent memory or will the visits turn out to be nothing more than a customary annual exercise undertaken because politicians must be seen taking stock of the situation.

Senior bureaucrats from Marathwada felt there was a lack of coordination at all levels and absence of seriousness about the situation among politicians, particularly from the ruling Congress-NCP.

A high-ranking bureaucrat strongly criticized Pawar’s recent comment that the Centre was yet to receive a statement from the state government on the situation.

“We feel that as Pawar has been in state politics for over four decades, instead of making a statement critical of a government in which his own party is a constituent, he should have asked either Chavan or his own nephew Ajit Pawar, who was sitting next to him in many meetings, to submit a memorandum,” a bureaucrat said.

A former chief secretary felt that there was too much of politics in the management of the drought. “Parts of Marathwada have seen severe droughts for the past several years, but it appears that no strong measures have been taken to tackle the situation,” he said. “Both Pawar and chief minister Chavan must fix responsibility on their cabinet members as well as elected representatives.”

Leader of opposition Eknath Khadse also came down heavily on Chavan and Pawar, saying that instead of undertaking tours of drought-affected areas, they must ensure that orders passed by the state government for tackling the situation must be implemented in letter and spirit. Khadse said so far the state had only stayed recovery of power bills and granted fee exemption to school students.

“The stay is on current bills, but the new policy is silent on outstanding bills,” Khadse said. “If Chavan is at all serious, he must immediately grant a stay on recovery of all bills.”

On the fee exemption, Khadse said the government had not done adequate homework before making the announcement.

“Under the Right to Education Act, school students have already been exempted from payment of fees,” he said. “If some schools are charging fees, it’s between Rs 25 and Rs 50. If at all they are keen on granting exemption, students of professional colleges, such as medical and engineering colleges, should be exempted.”

He said it was “shocking” that even workers under the employment guarantee scheme were not paid wages for periods ranging from seven days to a month. “All these issues have been specifically brought to the notice of the CM, but no corrective measures have been taken,” Khadse said.

Times View: Knee-jerk reaction won’t help O ur leaders seem to wake up to the reality of drought every year between December and June and then forget the issue when the rains come. No amount of VIP tours of districts, which can also result in disruption of routine work, will help the state’s drought-prone areas unless there is some serious planning on how to tackle the problem. Dams are nowadays more in the news for cost escalations and controversies. Politicians and bureaucrats need to look at long-term solutions instead of waking up only when the problem is there every year.
Prafulla Marpakwar TNN

NCP-Cong war of words over drought donations
Mumbai: The Congress and its ally NCP are at loggerheads again, this time over personal drought donations.

Home minister R R Patil, who is from the NCP, on Tuesday launched a veiled attack on chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is from the Congress, for criticizing his move to donate a month’s salary to the CM’s relief fund.

“I have not heard or read what Chavan has said, but if the CM has referred to my contribution for raising drought relief funds as ‘cheap publicity’, then does Chavan mean even gazetted officers of the state government and teachers who have contributed to drought relief are doing it for the publicity,” Patil said while speaking to media persons.

Last week, during the weekly state cabinet meeting, Patil suggested that ruling DF ministers, MLAs and MLCs should forgo a month’s salary for tackling the water crisis in the state. Chavan responded by saying the suggestion would be considered later, if required. On Friday, Patil donated a month’s salary to the CM’s relief fund. Even stategazetted officers agreed to give two days’ salary.

Later, Chavan reportedly said to some journalists that the drought should not be politicized for “cheap publicity”.

The state has spent over Rs 800 crore on drought relief.
  • The NCP also criticized MNS chief Raj Thackeray for calling Congress-NCP ministers’ visits to drought-hit areas an “eyewash”.
  • State can raise 7k cr F acing a cash crunch amid a drought crisis, the state has been allowed by the Centre to raise Rs 7,000 crore in loans. CM Prithviraj Chavan also indicated on Tuesday that evening power cuts would be scrapped in drought-hit parts.
Sanjeev Shivadekar TNN

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