As and Advocate General ,if I don’t speak for people’s interest, who will?
Shrihari Aney | March 28, 2016
There is conflict of duty and absolute absence of clarity on the powers of an advocate general’s post. Government has enough lawyers called government pleaders. Advocate general is a constitutional post which as borne down by judgements and represents interest of people of the state. Similar to the post of a cabinet minister, advocate general’s statements to court are binding on the government. If I don’t speak, who will? If I find policies of the state opposed to people’s interest, it becomes my constitutional duty to stand up and say that’s wrong. This I did from day one.
I like to think of myself as conscience keeper of Vidarbha and have been very vocal about its independence.
Whenever the session was about to begin, legislators would go on a rampage and not let the house work as if I was doing something against Maharashtra. No work was done during the 15 days of Nagpur winter session because I wrote a book called Vidarbha Gatha. Once again on my statement on Marathwada they did not allow the budget session to work until I resigned.
Marathwada and Vidarbha are co inheritors of a tragedy
The artificial political handlings were opposed by people like Dr Ambedkar who has said there have to be three states, i.e.; Marathwada, Vidarbha and Deccan (as it was known then) and not one as it is tri-Maharashtra.
There is no irrigation in the regions and direct repercussion is farmers’ suicides. Vidarbha region gives only a single crop in a year and has to depend on natural rain to meet its irrigation needs. Marathwada suffers the worst and is completely dependent on Godavari river. The misfortune is that the river has many smaller dams built upstream before entering Marathwada. On the other hand, western Maharashtra has complete canalisation and irrigation. Since Nashik needed water it build a dam there which started depriving Marathwada of the available natural river water. Vineyards sprung up in Nashik. This led to further scarcity of water in Marathwada.
One of the cases I was making was that they have to release drinking water in Marathwara which was in its fourth year of drought. Latur gets water once in 26 days. This is the wretched level of their existence because of the deprivation. Why are they not letting drinking water come into Marathwada?
Things have turned drastically in these regions. Economic conditions have worsened. Agriculture is in shambles. Unless the govt pays attention and allocates resources, it is difficult to pull through.
Farmers can no longer afford to keep cattle because there is no fodder. The government has ordered closure of supplying cattle fodder stating that it does not have the money. The new law prohibits selling it to slaughter house. When the court asks me why did you stop supplying fodder? I can refuse to answer the question, play every trick in the book that a good lawyer would play and lie. But I can also answer the question and hope it brings about a change. The only answer I can give is that there is direct order of secretaries that if the government releases the fodder now it will have to buy more later, it is better not to release the fodder now. Naturally the court kicks up a fuss and it tells the government, it is OK to release fodder as there is a GR in place. The government does not like it and gets upset. Is the Advocate General speaking in a manner that he is not supposed to speak?
Vidarbha lags behind in development. We have a movement where we insist for its statehood. It was an emotional issue in early 50s when my grandfather headed the movement. Today it is problem of deprivation and it is so acute that we cannot overcome it anymore.
It was obvious that the entire constitutional protection was defunct not just in terms of irrigation but also in terms of roads, rural education, electricity, hospitals, public health etc. It is because of the absence of effective governance that Naxalism grew in Vidarbha.
In Ghadchiroli and Chandrapur districts, only 30% women have access to institutionalised child birth. Without primary health centres and midwives no doctor wants to be posted in these areas and women deliver babies on roads. This is when Maharashtra’s necessary and good vision of itself is of an affluent economic power house and we see Mumbai hopefully competing with financial hubs like Singapore, Hong Kong. Chandrapur, a verdant green city has a power plant in the midst of the city which is unthinkable. About 450 power plants are planned there. At the end of ten years it will be a large ashtray as the power plant requires fuel and source of coal.
Every state prioritises its funds spending requirements. In terms of Maharashtra, there would be requirements of Vidarbha and Marathwada and they would fit into the overall scheme of the entire state. While the state has only limited resources and has plenty of things to accomplish, 80% people of Vidarbha are farming and tribals. Budgets have to place farming as the top most priority. Who will say building a sea link is more important than checking farmers’s suicides. To me allocation of money for international airport is not a top priority.
In south-western Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar lobby grew extremely strong governed Maharashtra for longest time ever irrespective of shift of power in between .The ruling political elite coupled with bureaucracy, coupled with prioritisation in favour of Maharashtra has led a development pattern which is alien to the requirements of Vidarbha and Marathwada.
The importance of limited resources allocation is better experienced in a smaller framework and a separate state will be able to handle it. This applies to administration as was well as administrative efficiencies. There would also be a more realistic understanding of what each state’s developmental path would be.
To build a Metro link in Mumbai we have to borrow money from Japan. Japanese government will not lend money so that famers get subsidy. The cotton farmer needs a methodology for meeting the cost of investment on agriculture, if the price of cotton is not lucrative enough. Yet the state is beyond understanding the economics and more concerned with economics of sugar cane farming. There is not a single research unit for cotton.
Regionally speaking, resources drawn for the entire state concentrate on and around Mumbai and for certain political reasons on southern Maharashtra. Maharashtra has a large deficit and is heavily burdened with Rs 33,000 cr loan to be serviced each year.
Splitting Maharashtra will divide its political strengths in the mechanics of power. The state returns largest revenue to the centre on the strength of Mumbai city alone without which Maharashtra’s financial rate in national strength would be like any other mid-sized state. All political parties understand this and therefore it is essential to govern Maharashtra. If you control Maharashtra, you control Mumbai, if you control Mumbai, you control economics –money of the country. No political party in its right mind is going to let go of control of Mumbai for which unfortunately Vidarbha is the key.
Looking at the voting pattern, prior to the BJP’s victory, Congress was single handedly returned to power by Vidarbha’s vote. Indira Gandhi was offered Chikmanglur and Wardha constituencies after she lost elections to return back to power. Until NCP split it into two, Congress had an extremely strong hold in Vidarbha as a result of which it lost power on state. On promises of statehood this time Vidarbha stood strongly for BJP. However, it has not happened in the last 18 months. Shiv Sena is happy with Mumbai. It does not have numeric strength outside Mumbai. BJP tying up with Shiv Sena is the result of BJP’s insecurities i.e., if it can manage to cobble together enough numbers sans Sena to govern Mumbai.
On Vidarbha issue, BJP was staunchly with me in Nagpur, but on Marathwada, they don’t have a policy and were in two minds. The Shiv Sena and MNS oppose it for purely emotional reasons. According to them, ‘Samyukta’ (unified Maharashtra) was created by spilling the blood of 105 martyrs, and therefore a Marathi speaking state must not suffer any further division. Bal Thackeray had promised More than two decades ago, Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray had promised that if Maharashtra failed to develop Vidarbha in 10 years, he would personally support the demand for a separate state. It has been Vidarbha’s experience that politicians have conveniently short memories when it comes to promises made to the region.
The reason that Vidarbha got included in Maharashtra in the first place rather than an independent state was on linguistic basis and never on reorganisation of the states ensuring that overwhelming people would vote for Congress. The same formula meets the needs of BJP today. This situation to my mind does not reach any resolution. By the time that happens we have to keep struggling for statehood.
(As told to Geetanjali Minhas)
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