The Maharashtra state Assembly on Monday had a tumultuous day with both houses demanding the resignation of Maharashtra advocate-general Shrihari Aney for his remarks made during a speech in Jalna on Sunday in support of separate statehood for Marathwada.
Such was the outrage that Nitesh Rane, son of Congress MLA Narayan Rane, even said that when Aney’s head gets separated from his body he will know what it means to break up Maharashtra.
आणेंच डोक शरीरा पासुन वेगळ करा..मग यांना कळेल की महाराष्ट्राला तोडण म्हणजे काय असत!!
— nitesh rane (@NiteshNRane) March 21, 2016
The state government also expressed its displeasure over Aney’s demands.
It is for the first time that separate statehood for Marathwada has been demanded. Aney, who is from Nagpur, had earlier demanded an independent Vidarbha region as well. He said that Marathwada bore more injustice than Vidarbha and hence, it also should be independent. However, the people in Marathwada never demanded separation even in the face of crisis and it is not likely to happen in the near future either.
The Marathwada region has been the part of Maharashtra since 17 September, 1948 — the day celebrated as Marathwada Liberation Day — when the region was liberated from the rule of nizams. Well-known doctors, professors and talented pool of people from Telangana and Karnataka — from the former princely Hyderabad state — migrated to Marathwada during its integration with Maharashtra seeking progress and development. Since the rule of nizams, there has been a feeling of suppression and injustice with which the people of Marathwada have grappled.
However, this never provoked them to draw a boundary; on the contrary, they always wished to counter their problems by being a part of Maharashtra.
Given the grave agrarian crisis and how water-starved the region is right now, it is stupid to even think of separate statehood.
Firstly, the idea would never garner any kind of political backing. Sunil Gaikwad, BJP MP from Latur, who is in support of the separation, quoted Dr BR Ambedkar saying that the Dalit leader supported the concept of small states. But only those small states that are rich in natural and mineral resources, like Andhra Pradesh, would benefit from a demarcation — definitely not a mineral and water-deficient Marathwada. If we take the example of the newly-formed states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, the separation led to the takeover of land mafias exploiting natural resources in the state. The tribal communities in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are now the migrants or should we say the 'climate refugees'. The reason is that the political economy in India, rather in the world, is based on exploitation of nature. The industries and land mafias are the ones to reap the benefits while the so-called ‘sons of the soil’ are the losers. Fearing the same will happen to Marathwada, not a single political leader in the region would advocate and push the idea of an independent Marathwada.
Secondly, the region is heavily dependent on western Maharashtra for natural resources. With a dearth of minerals, minimal forest cover (1.5 percent) and water resources, the repercussions in case of separation would be catastrophic. There are several reasons. Marathwada is completely dependent on western Maharashtra for water. The region gets it water supply from the Godavari, which originates in Nashik. Marathwada’s climate is not favourable for natural resources. Sugar industries, which are known to fuel the region’s economy, are also in the doldrums. If the crisis persists, of 70 sugar factories in the region, it is doubtful even 10 would be able to function smoothly till next year. Unseasonal rains and hailstorms for the past four years in Marathwada have adversely affected the region’s agricultural income subsequently triggering suicides. In 2015, there were 1,100 suicides recorded from Marathwada alone. And since 2016, there have been 200 farmer suicides in the region. How would the region survive the crisis if boundaries are drawn against the backdrop of extreme dependency of water and natural resources?
Environmentalists around the world are suggesting that the world should unite to fight the climate change. Similarly, Maharashtra should also stay united and put up a strong fight against the crisis, so that Marathwada can benefit from intellectual and financial inputs from all over the state to resolve problems old and new.
Atul Deolgaonkar is a senior journalist and an author
- As told to Shraddha Ghatge