Enthusiasm was a little short in supply when Maharashtra’s movers and shakers celebrated the 50th anniversary of the creation of the state. Most Maharashtrians are far too concerned about the problems assailing them from all sides to respond to the hype and hoopla. Indeed, the claims that the ruling establishment is bound to make about the strides the state have taken over the past five decades can only generate a torrent of cynical despair. On the face of it, certain statistics that the rulers of Maharashtra state advance to bolster their claims might appear to be upbeat. Since 1960, the proportion of the literate population, for example, has more than doubled – from around 35 per cent to a little more than 77 per cent. The bald statistics about the overall growth of the economy are, at first sight, also pretty impressive. The state’s income has increased manifold as has per capita income. But once you begin to go through the statistics with a fine toothcomb, the picture changes in a dramatic fashion. * To begin with statistics show that about a third of Maharashtra’s population lives below the poverty line. Part of the reason for this must be attributed to the mismanagement of agriculture. Over the past five decades, the output of wheat, jawar, bajra, cereals, pulses, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane has decreased, in some instances quite drastically. * Add to this the state’s failure to address the bleak situation in the drought-prone areas, notably of Vidarbha. * Since 1995, over 40,000 indebted farmers have committed suicide, not least because they haven’t been able to benefit in full measure from various government schemes. The low agricultural output accounts for the sharp rise in food prices. * Despite IT revolution, job losses have been mounting. From 1995 to 2008, as many as 1,800 people lost jobs everyday. This was before the recession struck. * According to official figures, jobs generated by various government schemes declined by 30 per cent. Unable or unwilling to accept why things have come to this pass – above all, an aversion to risk and adventure – most Maharashtrians prefer to rail against the world. Those who exploit Marathi grievances for short-term political gains are content to promote vada-pao, force shop-owners to put up signs in Marathi and compel taxi drivers from outside the state to speak the language. Such swagger in an urban, increasingly cosmopolitan India invites ridicule. Maharashtrians need to regain their self-esteem. That is possible only when they discard their quintessentially mofussil mindset as, for instance, Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulka have done with such exemplary success. Jai Maharashtra! All the same. Bureau report – NMTV News.
April 23, 2009