The region requires better road and rail connectivity, which will mobilise resources and products and create a market. The east-west connectivity between Marathwada and Vidarbha with western Maharashtra needs to be strengthened”- Pradeep Apte
Veteran economist Pradeep Apte said that the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions have remained backward and less developed due mainly to prolonged neglect shown by Union governments in improving the region’s connectivity, as well as the repeated deployment of administrative machinery that was incapable of effectively utilising government funds allotted to the regions.
Apte was speaking on ‘The Political Economy of Regional Development in Maharashtra’, organised as part of the N R Deshpande Memorial lecture at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) on Wednesday.
“The region requires better road and rail connectivity, which will mobilise resources and products and create a market. The east-west connectivity between Marathwada and Vidarbha with western Maharashtra needs to be strengthened,” said Apte, who was a member of the Kelkar committee that has submitted a report on ‘Balanced Regional Development Issues of Maharashtra’.
He said that while Konkan is world-famous for its mangoes, there is also a two-time flowering and export-quality Kesar variety of mango that is grown in Beed and Osmanabad districts of Marathwada. However, they do not get the desired market value as a lack of road or rail connectivity makes it difficult for them to be exported, said Apte.
“There are certain issues pertaining to laying new railway lines, defining forest land and awarding compensation to minerals extracted from land, among others. These are outside the purview of the state government and it would be wrong to blame the state government. It is the central government that has a larger share in keeping the region backward,” he further said.
Among the key recommendations made by the Kelkar committee is the setting up of a water grid connecting the water resources in Vidarbha and Marathwada. Marathwada is an arid region with districts that do not receive more than 500 mm rainfall annually.
“The water grid is still under consideration and I cannot comment on it presently. But, water is one of the issues that need to be addressed so that the agrarian community is uplifted,” said Apte.
With agriculture being the major economic contributor to the region, a change in agrarian practices is the need of the hour, said Apte. While Vidarbha has been known to grow un-irrigated cotton, its demand has fallen over the years. With higher yield and greater market value now going to irrigated cotton, a need for change to address the agrarian crisis is inevitable, he added.
The regions’ performance has been on the downward trend since 2003, said Apte, adding, “During seven out of 10 years, agriculture growth in these regions has been negative.”