Nagpur: We won so many seats here based on the promise we made to create a separate state – but where is Vidarbha ? Will we ever get it?!!
An anguished Ashish Deshmukh, a popular Youth leader of Central India asks.
Ashish is the son of Ranjeet Deshmukh who has been Minister during Congress regime in the state and also President of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. Ever since Ashish joined politics he has been a strong proponent of statehood for Vidarbha. This conviction led him to join BJP though his family has been rooted in Congress for many decades.
His conviction led him to repeatedly undertake activities pressing for demand for Vidarbha.
He undertook a Yalgar yatra walking from Nagpur to Sewagram Wardha to press for this demand. He was joined by Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is Finance Minister of the state now, in this exercise. He also carried out a motorbike rally, which was flagged off by Devendra Fadnavis later.
But the highlight of his political career has been an indefinite Hunger strike he sat on in 2013 for creation of Vidarbha when it seemed only a desperate and radical move would attract attention to this long standing demand. He carried on the fast for 8 days before senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari persuaded him to relinquish it promising that as soon as BJP came to power Vidarbha would become a reality.
“It has been three years since we came to power in Maharashtra and three and half years since we formed a Union government in Delhi, why has the promise not been made good?” Ashish asks in frustration.
He is convinced that given the equation Fadnavis shares with Modiji and Amit Shah in Delhi only he can make Vidarbha happen.
Ashish has not met P.M. about this ( we all know how difficult it is for even MPs to meet him!) but he did broach the topic with BJP President Amit Shah some months ago.
“Bhai, the demand should come from your state leaders!” he was told.
“It is unfortunate, but I am convinced nothing will really change for Vidarbhites till we do not get a separate state”
Ashish Deshmukh was speaking exclusively to Nagpur Today Editor on the sidelines of the recently held VED conference on making Nagpur a logistic hub. (It can be mentioned here, that Nagpur Today, an e paper that is also convinced about, and committed to formation of Vidarbha, has often questioned Ashish on his seriousness about Vidarbha!)
At that conference, giving his key note address Guardian Minister of Nagpur and Maharashtra’s Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had agreed that unemployment was the burning question before Nagpur and Vidarbha youth.
“Mark my words, no logistic hub and no MIHAN will solve the question of unemployment of our youngsters as long as we remain in Maharashtra. The – former- leaders of this movement also know this!
If a logistics hub has to created in Nagpur, where is the government policy laid out for it? There is an inertia about planned, institutional project wise growth of Vidarbha.
We all know that sops such as ‘Majhi Metro’, ‘Smart city’, cement roads and ‘Samrudhi Mahamarg’ will not stop our farmers’ suicide and youth unemployment, only a separate Vidarbha will.” Ashish Deshmukh, MLA from Katol, argues passionately.
“Look where Chattisgarh or the recently formed Telengana are today”
“We have been demanding Vidarbha for almost 50 years now, even before I was born” says Ashish; “the demands for Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Telengana came up much later. But the tragedy for us is that these states have been created, two of them under NDA governments, while our demand is still lagging.”
“Look at how Chattisgarh and Telengana who flank us on our North east and South east, have developed so rapidly leaving Vidarbha miles behind?”
Speaking about Chattisgarh, which was formerly with Madhya Pradesh and considered its most backward ‘tribal’ area, Deshmukh pointed out that just a few years ago labour from this part would come en mass to Nagpur and other Vidarbha towns and large villages looking for jobs.
“Whether it was agricultural labour, or manpower required in Cotton Ginning and pressing mills, construction workers… they were all coming from Chattisgarh. ”
Now the flood has turned into a trickle and almost dried up.
“With unemployment looming large for our own people, where are any jobs to offer these ‘outsiders’?”
Conversely, if matters continue to progress, or regress, our people will have to leave Vidarbha and go to these ‘new states’ looking for jobs.
That is because not just jobs for working classes, even white collared jobs are growing fast in these states.
Our Engineers are already going to Hyderabad which is in Telengana now for software jobs.
“How many nay sayers who casually reject the demand for Vidarbha saying ‘it is not necessary’ realize the fact that there has been such large scale migration from Vidarbha that we have ‘lost’ 4 Vidhan Sabha seats and one Lok Sabha seat to rest of Maharashtra?” asks Deshmukh.
As many other Vidarbha proponents point out only our forest cover is being rapidly denuded to get at the large coal deposits under it, and our cities turning into wastelands and deserts due to the highly polluting mega thermal power stations – all set up to satisfy the ever increasing power demands of Western Maharashtra.Unsatiable power requirment of industrial belts of Mumbai – Thane- Panvel – Pune right upto Nasik, even Aurangabad, leaving our own farmers high and dry and ‘powerless’ in so many cruel ways.
Where is the power we ourselves produce?
As farmers will point out ” at long last there is water in our wells but we cannot pump it out to irrigate our fields because there is no power and we cannot run pumps; our harvested crops cannot be sent to mills because we cannot operate thrushers. We can see the HT power lines going through our farms taking power to these big cities in the west, power produced in our neighborhood, but we are denied access to it!”
We residents of Nagpur are also facing brunt of power cuts so imagine the state of our rural areas. Towns like Saoner, which has coal mines in its backyard!, Warud and Katol have power cuts throughout the day and also dark evenings and nights in the festive season of Dashera – Diwali. Smaller villages have hours together of darkness.
Not only is our power ‘stolen’ from us but we subsidize the losses due to transmission, about 20%, by paying the same tariffs as rest of the state.
Just a few hours away from Nagpur lie two states, M.P. and Chattisgarh, who are enticing industrialists out of Nagpur by offering not just uninterrupted power, but cheaper too!
“How are jobs going to be created in this scenario?” Questions Deshmukh.
Forget creating new jobs people are being laid off from their existing jobs by big companies!
“Agriculture will remain in gloom as long as irrigation facilities do not increase”
Just compare the two states. Our outlay for irrigation for the whole state was Rs. 7000 crores of which Vidarbha would hopefully get some component.
But Telengana, after separating from AP, has an irrigation budget of Rs. 26,000 crores!
This final figure says it all.
It has only been in existence for three years but Telengana has seen robust growth due to many specific policies.
Chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, last year stated that Telangana has achieved a record growth rate of 27.45 per cent in the per capita income. Pretty impressive stats for a fledgling state.
BJP has also been in power for 3 years in Maharashtra where they won by promising to grant statehood to Vidarbha. What are our figures of growth and development???
—Sunita Mudaliar (Executive Editor)