Vidarbha comprises eleven districts on the eastern end of Maharashtra. The region is underdeveloped in both absolute and relative terms. With the exception of Nagpur, all districts in Vidarbha are significantly underdeveloped when compared to the rest of Maharashtra or India.
This situation warrants urgent attention for action in the region to ensure that people’s lives and livelihoods are revitalized and sustainable development is achieved in the long term.
Mere provision of cash incentives, subsidies and dealing with loan waivers for cash strapped population of the region will not provide a solution for this region that has significant potential for endogenous development should appropriate interventions are put in place and communities are empowered to make their decisions with information, involvement and interest.
Considering a large number review and recommendation reports already available to develop this region, the following are a set of 5 interventions the Government of Maharashtra could consider. These interventions are not to be read mutually exclusive of other development actions and plans currently being pursued.
1. Educate, Empower, Enable
Develop a participatory, responsive programme that focuses on educating the farmers with regard to water harvesting, agro-forestry, processing and value-addition technologies that are custom made to the region
Put in place a large-scale community empowerment programme that is based on experiences thus far in resource management and resilient approaches to financing, investment and management
Create an enabling environment with the participation of public and private sector using innovative approaches for ‘consensus farming’, innovative agro-technologies including hydroponics with strong back-stopping from the Government using appropriate regulatory and market mechanism where the farmers and communities are enabled to adjust and respond to markets and prices.
2. Green-wave Programme
Harnessing the region through structured and appropriate agro-forestry and restoration programmes with an aim to reduce forest and agricultural land degradation and develop appropriate carbon capture and credit programme and community based REDD+ options where the Government provides full and long term support for technical and financial inputs and the communities serve as working partners should be considered;
Suitable water and soil conservation and harvesting approaches are to be designed with the help of experts, directly responding to local needs.
3. Enlarging the Agro-enterprise Base
Low-input, high-value agro-enterprise options, including designated organic cultivation options should be identified and long-term support and withdrawal programmes be put in place;
A regional cooperative, back-stopped by the state government, on production, procurement and marketing with a strong and robust mechanism for community based enterprise development using a ‘bio-village’ programme approach be developed and delivered.
4. Innovations for improving productivity using technological interventions
The region could benefit from introduction and adoption of new technologies including water harvesting, renewable energy harvesting, hydroponics, low-external input agriculture and the like. A ten year programme to transfer, adopt, incubate and scale up these technologies should be put in place with support from venture capitalists and private entrepreneurs back-stopping the initiatives.
State government supported special purpose vehicle has to be created for the above.
5. Participatory Approaches
Vidarbha and its people, for long, received resources, finances and techniques for improving resilience with limited participation in decision making. A bottoms-up, participatory decision support system and rationale and need based state support mechanism is critical for ensuring the region and its people make decisions for development using full and free informed participation on decisions and interventions.
The state government should consider putting in place a mechanism to learn from the communities on endogenous development rather than continuing the exogenous interventions and responses.