NAGPUR: Economist, chairman of the 13th finance commission and retired bureaucrat Vijay Kelkar, who heads the committee formed by Maharashtra governor to take a fresh look at regional imbalance, was moved by the plight of widows of farmers who ended their lives unable to bear the economic stress. “The crisis in Vidarbha’s dry-lands is deep and of immense proportions,” he agreed after meeting hapless members of the distressed farming community and others at Bacchat Bhavan in Yavatmal collectorate on Friday.
Kelkar was particularly touched by the misery of Rekha Thag, a farm widow from Venikota village, who was allegedly thrown out of the house by her in-laws after husband’s death. She now fends for herself working as a domestic help in Yavatmal and looks after her children. Kelkar reportedly promised to support education of her daughter.
Kelkar and some of his team members had a separate meeting with elected representatives from Zilla Parishad and panchayat samitis who recounted to him the abysmal conditions in which people live in the backward district. Progressive farmer Subhash Sharma, who has successfully tapped organic farming techniques, also presented his views.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti’s Kishore Tiwari, in his presentation, blamed the faulty policies of the Maharashtra government for the agrarian crisis that farmers’ of the region find themselves in leading to the unending suicide crisis. “The only plausible solution is creation of separate state of Vidarbha,” Tiwari stressed.
However, Kelkar while summing up the meeting made it clear that he may not able to recommend creation of a new state as it was beyond the scope of his assigned task. Kelkar said the obsession with the perceived backlog figures must go. He would certainly seek policy reforms and long term planning for narrowing gaps in per capita income in the various regions of the state. Different groups within the 14-member committee are tackling issues like governance deficit, infrastructure needs and policy initiatives needed to meet goalposts like poverty alleviation. Kelkar also suggested that technology thrusts like broadband network which could be game-changers and open new avenues for economic development weaning it from agriculture and other traditional resources would be examined.
Earlier, after arrival here on Thursday evening, Kelkar, in his interaction with a select group of people, stressed on need for policy changes, especially reforms needed in forest laws that would be taken up by his committee. He said no deadline was fixed for submission of his report as the committee work had suffered because of civic and other elections recently.
Kelkar committee visits Yavatmal in Vidarbha
Yavatmal, Apr 6 (PTI) A committee headed by economist Dr Vijay Kelkar visited the city today and held discussions with the representatives of NGOs, farmers, office-bearers of local bodies, and widows of farmers. The committee has been appointed by the Maharashtra government to study the agrarian crisis in Vidarbha region, which has become infamous for farmers’ suicides. The committee held a marathon sitting at Bachat Bhavan, inside the Collector’s office premises. Addressing a press conference later, Dr Kelkar assured that his report would take note of problems of the area and people’s sentiments. As to the demand for separate state of Vidarbha, Kelkar said terms of reference of the committee did not cover the issue. The committee is to “identify indicators for determining the regional developmental imbalance” in the state, and to prepare an action plan to rectify it, he said. The committee includes Vijay Borade, Dr Madhav Chitale, Dr R P Kurulkar, Dr V M Mainde and Dr Vinayak Deshpande. When asked about the impact of the Bt Cotton, Dr Mainde, vice chancellor of Akola Agriculture University, conceded that Bt cotton may not be suitable for the region. “Bt cotton needs adequate and regular water supply and if it is disrupted, it would adversely affect the production,” Mainde said, adding that Vidarbha farmers were facing the brunt of irregular rainfall and lack of irrigation. PTI COR KRK