Saturday, October 29, 2011

Vidarbha: Telangana’s cousin in distress

Vidarbha: Telangana’s cousin in distress

again, it was only in 1994 – 38 years later – that a Presidential Order was issued making, among other things, the Governor responsible for supervision and allocation of Plan funds to Vidarbha and Marathwada – again unlike in Telangana. But providing budgets was one thing and spending them another. The backlog (gap) between allocation and expenditure in the regions was great.

The Vidharbha region of Maharashtra consists of six districts of the ancient Bhonsle kingdom of Nagpur (annexed 1853 by the British) and five districts of Berar (a province of the Nizam’s Hyderabad State leased to the British in 1853). Both are known for their vast cotton-growing areas, and they formed part of the Central Provinces of British India.

Vidharbha has two-thirds of Maharashtra’s mineral resources, three-fourths of the forest resources and is surplus in power. It covers 32% of the State and has a population of 20 million: 21% of the State population. It sends 10 MPs to the Lok Sabha and has 62 seats in the 288-member State Assembly. Nagpur is its major city.

On October 1, 1938, the Central Provinces Legislature passed a unanimous resolution to create a separate State of Mahavidharbha. The movement was seriously launched in 1947 when it was realised that, with the end of the British rule, Berar province would legally revert to the Nizam of Hyderabad.

By August 1947, political leaders came to an agreement, commonly known as the Akola Pact that contemplated Maharashtra with the two sub-provinces with separate legislatures and Cabinets, etc. It was a constitutionally unworkable proposition and soon disowned by all parties.

The Dar Commission in 1948 stated: “We are satisfied that public opinion is still in its formative stage in Vidharbha and it does not know it own mind. In these circumstances, it will not be possible to form a province of Maharashtra with Vidharbha”.

The 1953 “Nagpur Agreement”, signed by Y B Chavan, Morarji Desai and other politicians, envisaged a merger with Bombay State based on assurances and guarantees for Vidharbha and Marathawada.

The States Reorganization Commission, however, in 1955 recommended that Vidharbha should remain a separate State as it was financially sound and its people had a deep-rooted regional consciousness.
Despite this, Vidharbha was merged with bilingual Bombay State in 1956 and since 1960 remained part of Maharashtra.

The reason was simple. The Samyukta Maharashtra Samithi (SMS) was gaining popularity for a State for all Marathi-speaking people and including Bombay City. In the 1957 General Election, the SMS won 101 seats out of 133 in Western Maharashtra, including 12 from Mumbai.

The SMS was a combine of the Communist Party and the Socialist Party.
For the Congress, Vidharbha – where it won 62 out of the 66 seats - was crucial in retaining its tenuous hold in the Bombay Assembly.

The only way Congress could retain power in Maharashtra was by annexing Vidharbha before the strength of its Gujarat wing departed with the formation of Gujarat. The Nagpur Agreement had established the guarantees for the regions. Its salient features were:

1. Vidharbha, Marathwada and Rest of Maharashtra (RoM) - would be treated as separate regions for all type of development and administration.

2. Allocation of funds would be on the basis of population but special attention will be given to Marathwada

3. The three regions would be given representation in proportion to population in (a) composition of government (b) admission to all educational institutions in vocational, scientific, professional or other specialised training (c) the services of all grades under government or government controlled enterprises.

4. People of Vidharbha would have the advantages derived from Nagpur, as the capital of their State, preserved.
Thus Vidharbha’s history is similar to that of Telangana.
Marathwada’s four districts were even part of Hyderabad State like Telangana.

Both mergers involved the linguistic angle, the Congress Party interest and, above all, purported to level the cultural, economic and political differences, which existed for hundreds of years. Even the conditions of merger; the Gentlemen’s Agreement on Telengana is similar to the Nagpur Agreement. But, unlike the former, the latter was enshrined in Article 371(2) of the Constitution in 1956.

But, again, it was only in 1994 – 38 years later – that a Presidential Order was issued making, among other things, the Governor responsible for supervision and allocation of Plan funds to Vidharbha and Marathwada – again unlike in Telangana. But providing budgets was one thing and spending them another. The backlog (gap) between allocation and expenditure in the regions was great.

The “Dandekar Committee on Regional Imbalance” had given its recommendation in 1984, which had not been accepted by the State Government. Eleven years later another “Indicators and Backlogs Committee (IBC)” was set up in 1995 and reported in 2000 (another five years later!).

The Planning Commission, in its “Report of the Fact- Finding Team on Vidharbha” (RFFTV) of 2006 commented: “The delay in implementing the budgetary consequences of having willingly joined Vidharbha to Maharashtra in its very constitution as a State is by itself a measure of the inadequacy of the intentions of the Government of Maharashtra over the past more than a decade” (p.15).

In simple language, it means that Vidharbha (like Marathawada) was let down, betrayed and robbed of its promised budgetary allocations.
The IBC arrived at the total sectoral backlog of Rs.14, 007 crores as of 1st April 1994. The Table below gives the break up in crores of rupees (RFFTV, page 73).

From 1982 to 2002, the irrigation backlog grew from 38% to 62% for Vidharbha and from 23% to 33% for Marathwada, while for the RoM it declined from 39% to 5%!! By 2007, this backlog was 70% for Vidharbha, 30% for Marathwada and “nil” for RoM. The neglect was in the past, but also it continued to get worse.

The RFFTV states: “Other regions of the State which were behind Vidharbha at the time of Independence in irrigation development have now marched ahead in the post-Independence period” (p.88).

As far as power is concerned, the backlog of energy situation of pump sets, as of April 2005, for Vidharbha was 215,099, for Marathawada 109,073, while RoM had an excess of 357,320 pump sets energised.

The RFFTV commented: “The common refrain is that though majority of electric power is produced in Vidharbha and energy requirement of Vidharbha in particular for energisation of agricultural pumps is not fulfilled as compared to Western Maharashtra (RoM)” (p.94).

It went on: “The reason for the enormous difference is not the water table level but the huge pendency of applications by farmers who have applied for electric connections” (p.95).

The idea that an underdeveloped region without its own political control can progress harmoniously within a dominating political system has proven to be false. The Telangana Regional Council was a short-lived experiment, killed deliberately as it was unacceptable to the ruling State elite.

For Vidharbha, with all the good intentions of the rest of Maharashtra, that merger also has not worked and discontent is rife. Both mergers are different - yet alike. As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.

Vidharbha and Telangana teach us the lesson that culture, politics and development is very local, and when such alliances do not work satisfactorily for over five decades, separation is better than continued bitterness.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Editor-in-Chief: India Today on Vidarbha Farmer Suicide


India Today EDITOR'S NOTE Story

From the Editor-in-Chief: India Today issue on Vidarbha

(Dated November 7, 2011)


Editor-in-Chief: India Today

October 28, 2011 | 18:49

Kalawati, a widow with nine children, acquired national prominence, courtesy Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi three years ago. Her husband, a cotton farmer from Vidarbha unable to pay his debts, committed suicide in 2005. In July 2008, during the tenure of UPA 1, Rahul, in an evocative speech in Parliament, spoke about how he visited her home and found that her husband had committed suicide because he was dependent on only one crop. His widow subsequently resolved her problem, according to Rahul, by sowing three crops, acquiring two buffaloes and digging a pond. As this was part of the nuclear energy debate, he said that nuclear energy would be the country's insurance policy in times of need just like Kalawati's pond was her insurance policy in times of drought. It so happens that the prospect of nuclear energy looks dismal in India, and so does Kalawati's future.

After her husband's death in 2005, her son-in-law killed himself in 2010. One of her daughters, tired of the humiliation of prolonged illness and continued penury, committed suicide this year. Kalawati has lost four relatives in the last six years. Rahul Gandhi's visit brought her attention but no compensation from the Government. Some generous NGOs gave her money. However, her life today remains a struggle. There are many other less famous women in that region who lead lives harder than even Kalawati's. All of their farmer-husbands committed suicide, unable to pay their debts.

For our cover story this week, Deputy Editor Damayanti Datta, Assistant Editor Kiran Tare and photographer Bhaskar Paul drove 700 kilometres from Nagpur to visit 10 villages in Vidarbha. Says Datta, "The farmers of the region are so desperately poor that in addition to farming the small landholding they own, they also have to work as labourers on other farms. In the end they still earn no more than a total of Rs 2,500 a month." This region is an important cotton farming belt of India. Cotton is a commercial crop and should, logically, yield decent returns. What then drives farmers to suicide? Some activists blame the introduction of genetically modified BT cotton a decade ago. That, they say, has raised the prices of seeds, while requiring farmers to buy new seeds every year. However, there is considerable evidence to show that BT cotton gives substantially high yields and higher returns than the older varieties it has replaced. The real problem is with systems.

Vidarbha, unlike say Gujarat, another Bt cotton-growing state, has little irrigation, which means the probability of crop failure gets hugely magnified if the monsoon fails. Farmers are entitled to financial support from the local administration and public sector banks if the crop fails. Both usually fail to deliver. The administration demands proof that farmers used "approved" seeds. They often use cheaper unapproved varieties. Banks demand collateral which they do not have. That forces them into the hands of moneylenders who charge interest rates as high as 40-50 per cent, the main cause of suicides. The Government can play a preventive role: by investing in irrigation, by getting rid of unnecessary rules of approval, and by ensuring that banks give credit.

It is a travesty that starvation and suicide should haunt a region as large as Vidarbha in a state as industrialised and prosperous as Maharashtra in a country making such rapid strides elsewhere, growing at the rate of more than 8 per cent a year for a decade. Rahul may not be able to save India's nuclear deal but, perhaps, he can get the Government to save Kalawati and others from their miserable plight.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

VJAS moved PMO for CBI probe in fact finding report of more than Two Million Bogus Students on role and Rs.20 thousand crore scam

VJAS moved PMO for CBI probe in fact finding report of more than Two Million Bogus Students on role and Rs.20 thousand crore scam

Nagpur –18th October 2011

Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJAS ) has moved PMO urging him for the CBI probe on the shocking fact finding report of mega survey done by Maharashtra Govt. from 3rd October to 5 october of this year which was being tabled before the Maharashtra Govt. cabinet on 19th October in order to check the truth strength of students and to know the exact truth of the role of the students on which state is spending more than Rs.10,000 crore as grant-aid after the Maharashtra cabinet took decision on report submitted by as Dr Shrikar Pardeshi—District Collector of Nanded in Maharashtra who undertook such survey in his district from 6 to 10 september and found more than 1 lakh 40 thousand as bogus and school are getting the aid on the basis of this fraudulent students ,it is estimated that final report of state level survey revealed the shocking fact that in a progressive state like maharshtra has made completely mockery of “Sarwashkisha Abhiyan” and ther are more than 2 million student found missing from school and they in fact bogus and shown in order to get aid and staff salary which is practice continued since 1985 after state Gvot flooded the Govt. aided school opened by MLA/Ministers of ruling parties and more than Rs.20 thousand crore is amount of mega scam which likely to be largest scam of the Maharashtra after it’s formation since 1960, Kishore Tiwari of Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti informed in press release today.

“We are following the survey since it was initiated in Nanded District popularly known as ‘Pat Tapasani’ and ,we are finiated with the response of state Govt. after the report Nanded was submitted to state cabinet who decided to conduct it throughout state and it was done in Maharashtra with help of more than 1 lakhs staff and police force between 3rd and 5th October even after lot of efforts of local politicians ,final report shows that in Maharashtra more than 2million students are bogus and each year the school management are getting bogus grant to tune of more than Rs.2200 crore amounting to tune of Rs.20 thousands crore in last 15 years hence only CBI probe can bring truth and book all culprit who have mockery of education in Maharashtra. we are expecting the Maharashtra chief minister prathiraj chavan who has ordered such massive survey and brought the truth before nation will ask centre for the CBI probe in alleged irregularities and this bogus student scam” Tiwari added.

In a representation it is allged that initial district administration of Nanded conducted school wise survey to find out the exact number of students in government-aided schools in his district, little did he know that the statistics would be a shocker. In the 3,475 schools inspected, about 140,000 students were found to be bogus and nearly 4,000 excess teachers were found to be catering to these students. The loss to the government exchequer in the district was Rs 150 crore. What’s more, most of this money seems to have gone to the owners of these educational institutions, who are politically influential.

The exercise was undertaken in early September this year. Later, in early October, a similar survey was conducted across the state. Of the 20 million registered students in state-aided schools, 2.1 million turned out to be bogus. There were 65,000 teachers in excess and the loss to the state exchequer stood at Rs 4,000 crore. This included money for mid-day meals and books drawn in the name of these bogus students.

In the past there have been numerous school inspections by the education department, but never one on this scale. The exercise had to be undertaken because rampant corruption and bribery among education officials had led to the suppression of facts about school enrolment in the state. That was until Dr Pardeshi decided to risk it, a risk because three-fourths of the schools surveyed belong to political heavyweights of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.

After the school education department realised that there were bogus students and teachers registered across the state and huge sums of money was going into the coffers of institution owners, it decided to implement a pilot project in one district. Nanded was chosen because it had made headlines for cracking down on cheating in SSC and HSC exams.

The district collector planned the entire exercise, and shared it only with a handful. The district’s borders were sealed on the appointed day and Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code was imposed. At the pre-decided time, officials raided the schools and verified each student of all 3,475 schools. The survey involved 466 Class I and II officials and took four days to complete. When the school managements felt the noose tightening, they started ‘importing’ students from neighboring districts. However, these students were easily identified because of the imposition of Section 144 in the district.

On the completion of this survey, Dr Pardeshi made a PowerPoint presentation before the state cabinet. Though the cabinet was divided over accepting the ‘Pardeshi model’, as the exercise is being called, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is adamant that it be implemented.

It is a common practice among educational institutions to ‘import’ students from other schools when inspections are conducted. According to information available on previous inspections, school owners knew of these inspections in advance. Once a school was inspected, students and furniture would be taken to the next school on the survey list. Though officials did realise that they had seen the same students in other schools (often in multiple schools), no one dared take on the politicians.

The Chief Minister has threatened stringent action against erring schools. But when schools are owned by relatives of ministers, it is an open secret that few would be booked. So far, the names of school owners involved in this fraud have not been revealed. But it is only a matter of time before they become public.

Education malpractices in the state have increased alarmingly. There has been a steady decline in the quality of students and teachers. With excessive political intervention in the education sector, the education department had become ineffectual. “In a coalition government, no hard decisions can be taken. It is bound to hurt one of the coalition partners. Let us see what action is taken now. Even if registrations are cancelled, owners of such institutions make sure their political godfathers get it revoked. It is a win-win situation for such institutions,” says an official of the education department.

Many in the state’s education department believe that successive governments have lacked the will to clean up the education system in the state.

“We are planning move in high court once PMO reject our demand ,we are hopeful that state Gvot . Will take step to curb this massive corruption in next cabinet” Tiwari added.