Maharashtra offers to refund money to Gujarat coop.

In 2013, a prominent milk cooperative in Gujarat donated fodder worth Rs. 22.5 crore to drought-hit Maharashtra. But now it has asked the State to refund the money after the Gujarat government filed cases against its officials.

The issue has snowballed into a major controversy with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan declaring that the money will be refunded. Questioning the attitude of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said: “If this is the view of the Gujarat government towards another State during the times of a calamity, it will create doubts in the minds of other States about him.”

At a media interaction, Mr. Pawar said: “Maharashtra has a tradition of helping other States during calamities. In the 1970s during the Morbi floods in Gujarat, the Chief Minister called me and we helped. We helped also during the 2001 Bhuj earthquake.”

However, the Gujarat government says it was implementing court orders after farmers of the Mehsana District Milk Cooperative challenged the fodder donation which, they said, was made without following procedures.

During the drought in 2013, Maharashtra faced an acute shortage of cattle fodder. Its Mahananda Dairy wrote to the Amul Federation in Gujarat requesting fodder supply. The letter was directed to the Mehsana Cooperative, which agreed to provide fodder worth Rs 22.5 crore on humanitarian grounds.

However, in January this year, the Gujarat Cooperation Department initiated action against officials of the Mehsana Cooperative. Police cases have been lodged against several officials, leading to arrests.

In March, the Mehsana Cooperative wrote to the Mahananda Dairy asking it to refund the money for the fodder.

And Mr. Chavan said: “Maharashtra has a tradition of helping other States but I don’t want to politicise an issue related to a natural calamity. We will return the money to Gujarat.”