Two farmers have approached the Bombay High Court seeking Rs 20,000 crore package from the Union government for thousands of farmers affected by the severe hailstorm in Maharashtra. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed against the Central government and the state government, will be heard by the court on Thursday.

The petitioners have said that farmers in around 15,000 villages across the state have been severely affected due to the hailstorm, and have not been extended any aid due to the model code of conduct.

They have demanded that the state government should waive off all the loans, electricity bills and other recoveries from the affected farmers.

The petition has sought the court's directions for appointment of a high-powered committee headed by the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra.

This committee comprising of senior officers of the departments of revenue, agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy development, should immediately disburse among farmers Rs 20,000 crore which should be provided by the Union government, it has urged. It has pegged the total losses at around Rs 42,000 crore.

"It is the duty incumbent upon the Respondents to declare immediately the said calamity as natural calamity and also declare immediate financial assistance and help to those farmers who are severally affected by the calamity," petitioners Gorakh Ghadge and Vithalrao Pawar have pleaded.

While Mr Ghadge hails from Solapur, Mr Pawar comes from Pune.

They have claimed that the farming was completely collapsed due to the natural calamity, and have lost crops like rice, jowar, wheat, vegetables, onion, sugarcane, corn, maize, groundnuts, and the horticultural products like banana, pomegranate, grapes, orange, papaya, mango, mosambi.

The petitioners have stated that as per information gathered through Right to Information, total area of 17,69,403 hectares has been directly affected and "thus approximate loss of the ready crop comes to about Rs.42,000 cores approximately."

The petitioners have said they have calculated the loss on the basis of Rs One lakh per acre "including all crops situated as per the area provided by the government."

They have claimed that apart from sympathy and assurances from Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, "all the farmers in the entire State including 28 Districts, 235 Talukas, 14,917 villages got nothing either from the State of Maharashtra nor from the Central Government and/or any commitment by the Election Commission thereof whether any recommendation from the State and Central Government has been forwarded."

Maharashtra government has sought Rs 5,000 crore from the Central government for the aid of the farmers.

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