Now I may not be the best political commentator, or even close to the most average of them, but the change of guards at the state government level of Maharashtra leaves me disappointed and sorry. Sorry for the hundreds of Vidarbha farmers who are looking down the barrel of a gun. Sorry for the large chunk of them who will contemplate suicide, and others who will commit them.
There was a point of time when I had great hopes. These were the times I saw institutes like the Visveswaraiya National Institute of Technology in Nagpur organise entire fests centred around the development and well being of the rural populace. They were actually following in the footsteps of some of the Indian Institutes of Technology, who had actually adopted local villages and were catering to their needs.
It was at that point that I felt a tinge of hope for the farmers in Vidarbha, who have always been shortchanged, right from ’state government sops’ to the huge rehabilitation scheme that the then finance minister P Chidambaram had announced. For starters, farmers in this cotton-growing belt have not received the best of seeds.
It doesn’t matter how much Nana Patekar, a person projected as a son of the soil in Maharashtra, ’stars’ in advertisements that promote BT cotton. The variety simply didn’t seem to work for the farmers! POOF went the promise of the state government aid! How could one trust a government that was giving its farmers an under-performing (that was a gross understatement, in fact) crop!
Former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde in 2004 even promised these farmers free electricity to run their pumps and gadgets! This despite the state having to buy power from outside to meet its needs. Want more proof of how Vidarbha has been neglected? Cities like Pune now have a zero-load-shedding policy in place, but Nagpur, a part of Vidarbha and more importantly the SECOND CAPITAL OF THE STATE does not have anything like that! Every time a proposal regarding this was put forward in front of MSEDCL, it has been delayed or shot down on one pretext or the other!
And then came P Chidambaram’s promise. The amount was also increased 20%. Apparently, all farmers who had taken loans from government-approved banks would not need to repay them, or repay only a portion of them. It was still too technical, and yet, they missed the biggest point of all!
Most farmers do not take loans from ’government-approved banks’! Only agricultural conglomerates and rich farmers do that, or are able to do that, simply because they have the financial ability to provide proper ’collateral’ in return of the loan! The poorer and the more numerous farmers avail of loans from the local sahukar, the moneylender who provides them ’monetary assistance’ in an unofficial capacity, without any proper documentation of the money taken or the rate of interest. This facilitates jacking up the loan rates to whatever level they want, and whenever they want it!
Vidarbha probably made a bigger ’blunder’, if one can call it that, during the state assembly elections in October 2009, when it turned out that around than two-thirds of the representatives elected to the Vidhan Sabha did not belong to the ruling coalition! Congress and NCP heavyweights fell like a ton of bricks, and the consequences are apparent.
Now, with the ascendance of Prithviraj Chavan to the ’throne of Maharashtra’, if one can call it that, Vidarbha can expect no better a fate! Chavan has been elected from the district of Satara, and is as unlikely to address the issues in Vidarbha as his predecessors. Ajit’dada’ Pawar, nephew of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, can be expected to be no better. So Vidarbha loses again!
I guess the BJP’s choice of a Vidarbha person as its head will also have its kickbacks from Congress and NCP.
And here’s a primer for those who still have no idea what I am talking about. Vidarbha is a collection of 11 districts towards the fag eastern end of Maharashtra. Remember all those farmer suicides you have been hearing about? Including the one that grabbed your attention in Peepli [Live]? This is the place where most of them have been taking place. The belt used to be one of the largest producers of Indian cotton. No more, I guess…
PS: This is purely an individual’s personal opinion, and nothing more.