Coming to the aid of hailstorm-affected farmers in Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to facilitate the bank account opening of the affected farmers with the help of Aadhaar card only. The court opined that in the time of calamity, the farmers should not be made to submit a range of documents to get government relief in their accounts.

The petitioners had claimed that many farmers could not receive government aid as they did not hold any bank account. "The whole point of Aadhaar card was that they don’t require anyone’s certificate for opening account,” the division bench headed by Chief Justice Mohit Shah said. The State government thereafter made a submission that the District Collector has been directed to take initiative to open the accounts of such beneficiaries.

The court also directed the Maharashtra government and the Central government to submit a report by May 5 about the fund disbursement and the steps taken for the welfare of farmers. The court will hear the matter next on May 7.

“The State government will submit a report about the disbursement, and other steps taken so far. The Central government too should file a report about the steps taken for the allocation and release of funds for farmers in Maharashtra,” the court said in its order.

Meanwhile, the State government told the court that it had made a total disbursal of around Rs 1400 crore to nearly 15 lakh farmers in the state till date. It submitted an affidavit and a district-wise aid package given to the affected farmers till April 15.

“Before the last hearing, the government had disbursed Rs 540 crore. After that, we have given assistance of Rs 859 crore to the farmers. A total disbursement of Rs 1399 crore has been made to 14,73,751 farmers across the affected area,” assistant government pleader Milind More told the court.

Pradip Indulkar, Deputy Secretary, Relief and Rehabilitation, submitted that the government had surveyed 20.59 lakh hectares of affected land in the State.

“The central government has so far approved Rs 865 crore, of which Rs 685 crore assistance has already been released,” advocate Rajeev Chauhan, representing the Union government, told the court.

The petitioners brought to the notice of the court that the cattle affected due to the hailstorm needed urgent medical attention. The court then directed the government to expedite the medical treatment for the affected cattle which survived the hailstorm.

It also amended its previous order to direct the authorities against coercive recovery of loans for not just farming, but for all agriculture-related and allied activities. The petitioners submitted that the farmers and agricultural labourers continued to commit suicides despite the court order.