Farmers and tribal in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region are hoping for a Rs.30,000 crore (Rs.300 billion) development package in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's budget, only two days away.
According to the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), in view of the neglect faced by the region since independence, it was high time the central government looks at Vidarbha seriously and announces a hefty development package.
"The Maharashtra government has spent over Rs.3,000 crore towards the irrigation backlog in the past three years, but it has failed to yield any benefit to the region," VJAS president Kishor Tiwari said.
He demanded a Rs.30,000 crore package, which would take care of the huge backlog for the region, help sustainable irrigation projects, take care of drinking water needs and other infrastructure development in the region.
Since 2006, the state government has announced two separate packages worth Rs.5,825 crore. This was followed up by a loan waiver from the central government of Rs.4,600 crore and from the state Rs.1,100 crore (the figure for this region) in 2009.
"Yet, suicides have not stopped, the region continues to be backward and the sentiments are strongly in favour of a separate state of Vidarbha," Tiwari pointed out.
According to official figures, almost 50,000 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra, of which a majority fall in the Vidarbha region.
"Despite such a large number of deaths, the state has not announced any concrete welfare measures for the farm widows, for the education of their children, employment opportunities and marriage of the girls," Tiwari said
Their major demands include - minimum support price (MSP) for cotton and soybean to match the production cost with a 50 per cent profit margin; new crop loan to farmers after waiving their existing debt dues; bringing in new technology in agriculture and irrigation; financial assistance for farm widows and higher education facilities to their wards.
He urged the finance minister to display his generosity in the next budget by making a substantial allocation for the Vidarbha region.