The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government to help farmers affected by hailstorm in several parts of the state open accounts with local co-operative banks using their Aadhar cards.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice MS Sanklecha directed the government, observing that farmers should not be made to submit various documents in order to obtain government relief during calamity. The government is disbursing aid to hailstorm-affected farmers by depositing money directly in their bank accounts.
The court has also asked the government to appeal to the farmers through media not to commit suicide. "Instead, ask them to approach you (government) for help," said chief justice Shah.
Additional government pleader Milind More informed the court that the government had disbursed a total of Rs1,400 crore in hailstorm-hit villages in February and March this year.
Rajiv Chavan, counsel for the central government, informed that they have so far approved Rs865 crore, of which Rs685 crore has already been released.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by two agriculturists -- Gorakh Gadge and Vithalrao Pawar -- seeking a direction to the Centre and the state government to disburse immediate relief of Rs20,000 crore to the affected farmers.
Ashish Gaikwad and Pooja Thorat, counsels for petitioner farmers, informed the court that despite government disbursing funds, farmers have not received money as several of them don't have bank accounts.
To this, the chief justice remarked: "The whole point of Aadhar card was that they don't require anyone's certificate for opening account."
More informed the court that district collectors have been directed to take initiatives to open accounts of such beneficiaries.
The government contended that it had made a total disbursal of around Rs1,400 crore to nearly 15 lakh farmers in the state to date.
"Before the last hearing, the government had disbursed Rs540 crore. After that, we have given assistance of Rs859 crore to the farmers. A total disbursement of Rs1,399 crore has been made to 14,73,751 farmers across the affected area," said More.
Pradip Indulkar, deputy secretary, Relief and Rehabilitation, submitted that the government had surveyed 20.59 lakh hectares of affected land in the state.
The high court has asked the Maharashtra government and the Centre to submit a report by May 5 about fund disbursement and steps taken for the welfare of farmers. The court will hear the matter next on May 7.