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Feb 21, 2013 at 11:01am IST

Maharashtra: Drought hits 16 districts, villagers migrate to cities in search of jobs

Mumbai: As many as 16 districts in Maharashtra have been badly affected by drought and distressed villagers are migrating to cities in search of jobs. The villagers are now reduced to making pavements in Pune.

Such is the acute water shortage that villagers in Dhule in northern Maharashtra have resorted to desperate measures. Every day they are sending the Maharashtra Chief Minister a money order of Rs 11 to shame him into action. "There is no water, no food in our village. So we had to migrate," said Asha, a migrant.

6,000 villages have been hit in 123 talukas in over 16 districts that have been declared drought-hit. Marathwada is the worst affected with only 14 per cent water stock available. Western Maharashtra's Konkan has the highest water availability at 65 per cent. Nagpur has 48 per cent, Amravati 44 per cent, Nashik 35 per cent and Pune 45 per cent of water stock.

The total water in reservoirs in Marathwada is barely 18 per cent. Big dams like Ujni and Jayakwadi have almost gone dry. The number of water tankers pressed into service in January this year was 11 times the number in January last year. The centre has given the state an assistance of over Rs 700 crore earlier this year.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the upcoming budget will focus on drought relief. Union Agriculture Minister has promised action too. "We are not satisfied about the current situation of drinking water. We are trying to figure out a solution before the month of May," Chavan said.

With Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray touring drought-hit areas, there's no shortage of political activity. But it's governmental activity that villagers need more.