The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on drought, headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, is likely to meet next week to consider financial aid to drought-hit Maharashtra.

Maharashtra is witnessing drought during the current Rabi (winter) season, and this drought spell was preceded by drought during Rabi 2011-12 and Kharif-2012.

“An Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT) is currently visiting Maharashtra to assess the drought situation in the State. The team’s assessment will be placed before the EGoM for effective management of drought and related issues which is likely to meet the next week,” an official statement said.

Deficit rainfall in western Maharashtra and Marathwada throughout the 2012 monsoon resulted in less availability of soil moisture and water for irrigation.

Poor rainfall has affected the storage in all the irrigation projects in the drought-affected region. Water storage in all dams has rapidly depleted in three divisions - Nashik, Pune and Aurangabad. The water storage in Jayakwadi, the biggest dam in Maharashtra, has negligible live storage.

The poor rainfall and consequent low water storage have reduced area coverage under Rabi crops, especially jowar.

While normal area under Rabi is 58, 60 lakh hectares, sowing has been done only in 45.27 lakh hectares. According to the latest crop cutting estimates, 3, 905 villages have witnessed crop loss above 50 per cent. This number is likely to increase in the final figures. Drinking water is being made available to people through private and government tankers.

The Centre has already approved Rs. 5, 74.71 crore and Rs. 778.09 crore to Maharashtra from National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) for mitigating drought situation during Rabi - 2011-12 and Kharif - 2012, respectively.