Maharashtra, which houses the country’s financial capital, contributes 15% of the country’s national income. The state, referred to as the most progressive in the country, has completed 50 years but is now facing a mid-life crisis.
Slipping from its numero uno position as India’s most developed and progressive state, to fighting separatist elements in its eastern region of Vidarbha, the state formed in 1951 seems to be at a crossroads. Many experts say after 50 years the state has become a bundle of social and economic contradictions.
From the towering skyscrapers of Mumbai where residents earn in lakhs, to the tribal areas of Nandurbar and Gadchiroli where tribals earn less then Rs 50 and are severely malnourished. The per capita income at Rs 1.25 lakh in Mumbai is three times higher than in Gadchiroli or Nandurbar where it is Rs 40,000.
Severe disparities exist among the districts and regions of the state right from areas of health to economic development. Eleven of its districts including the naxal-affected Gadchiroli and tribal-dominated Nandurbar fall in the 100 most backward areas in India.
“Sadly Maharashtra’s politicians haven’t looked at integrated development of the state. Government policies have limited development to a few areas in the state,” political analyst Surendra Jondhale said.
He said, most of the high-income activities are concentrated in Mumbai-Pune and western Maharashtra’s sugar belt. The inequitable wealth distribution is now threatening to split the state apart. The main grouse of people from the underdeveloped areas like Vidarbha has been the government’s unequal wealth distribution.
Sample this: there have been 119 investments of Rs 1.71 lakh crore in relatively developed areas like Konkan and western Maharashtra. Compare this to 25 investments of just Rs 17,540 crore in the backward areas of Marathwada and Vidarbha.
Many sceptics complain that unequal distribution of resources is due to the domination of politicians from western Maharashtra in the state’s political scene.
That explains the high level of irrigation in western Maharashtra, which produces the bulk of India’s sugarcane compared to the arid Vidarbha and Marathwada that grow cotton.
Bureaucrats have also complained about the inability of the government to take decisions. “The previous chief minister took ages to clear files. You can’t run a government effectively with people who are not able to take decisions and see that they are taken to their logical end,” one of the seniormost bureaucrats in the state said.
CM Prithviraj Chavan in his address to the state promised to expedite development. “Let’s take vow that we will build a new strong Maharashtra.”