With a highly developed industrial sector driving it ahead on the growth path, and other sectors keeping pace with the trend, Maharashtra is way ahead of other States on several counts.
IN several spheres, Maharashtra has achieved progress that is far ahead of most other States. Not only is it an important commercial hub for the nation, it also outshines other States in the sectors of development and infrastructure. One of India's most industrialised States, Maharashtra accounts for 15 per cent of the national income. Its economy has grown steadily per capita income is Rs.23, 849 a year, more than 60 per cent higher than the national average and highest among all States (at current prices base year 1998-99). About 40 per cent of all tax collections in India come from Maharashtra.
The State's industrial sector continues to be the most highly developed, contributing 22 per cent of India's net value added in the organised industrial sector. It has also kept up with changing trends, making efforts to keep pace with the New Economy. For instance, Maharashtra offers several incentives to the Information Technology (IT) sector. With several IT parks across the State offering state-of-the-art services, Maharashtra accounts for around 30 per cent of the country's software exports. Such fast-paced industrialisation is made possible primarily because Maharashtra's power generation capacity is the highest in the country, more than 14,000 MW. The availability of solid infrastructure is another point in favour of the State. The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), the country's largest industrial infrastructure provider, has developed more than 215 industrial estates, including nine five-star industrial estates and 63 growth centres. Specialised industrial estates for chemical, textile and leather goods and gems and jewellery have also been established at strategic locations. The country's largest and most diverse infrastructure for the IT industry emerged along the `Knowledge Corridor' between Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune and in other parts of the State such as Nagpur and Aurangabad.
Several state-owned corporations are also responsible for spurring Maharashtra's industrial growth. The State government-owned Maharashtra State Finance Corporation provides loans and financial assistance for small- and medium-size projects. For larger projects, finance is arranged through SICOM Limited, an autonomous organisation engaged in project advisory services, jointly owned by the government and development financial institutions. SICOM also provides training and advisory facilities to would-be and first-time entrepreneurs.
MUMBAI, the capital city, is also the financial capital of the country. Around 70 per cent of India's stock transactions take place in Mumbai. The headquarters of the Reserve Bank of India and almost all central financial institutions and banks are situated in Mumbai. The banking network spans all of Maharashtra and reaches even the remote rural areas. The two largest domestic investment banks in India, owned partially by the Government of India, ICICI and the Industrial Development Bank of India, have their headquarters in Mumbai. These institutions not only provide project funding, but also a range of project advisory services. The State has three stock exchanges the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the Over the Counter Exchange and the Pune Stock Exchange. BSE is the largest stock exchange in the country, with a market capitalisation of approximately Rs.4,558 billion ($127.75 billion) as of October 1996, which makes it one of the largest stock exchanges among the emerging economies of the world. Over 5,969 companies worldwide are listed on the exchange. BSE was the first Indian bourse to replace the open outcry mode of trading with screen-based online systems. The Over The Counter Exchange of India (OTCEI) has been promoted by leading financial institutions. Established on the lines of NASDAQ in the United States, it aims to provide a window to small companies, which would have otherwise lacked resources to approach the large capital markets for funds to meet capital requirements.
The reputed educational institutions in the State have ensured the growth and availability of skilled manpower. Maharashtra has 301 engineering degree/diploma colleges and 616 Industrial Training Institutes that produce about 1,60,000 professionals a year. It has institutions such as the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), which developed India's supercomputer, the Mumbai and Pune Universities, the Indian Institute of Technology, the Victoria Jubilee Institute of Technology and top-rated management institutions. The Maharashtra Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (MCED), Aurangabad, trains 50,000 young people a year to take up self-employment ventures.
Maharashtra's transport network is another of its advantages. The State has a large network of highly developed roads and railways. Moreover, the two international ports in the State handle a large part of India's trade. Currently, there is one international airport and four domestic airports in operation. There are plans to construct two international airports, one each at Navi Mumbai and Pune, and an international passenger and cargo hub at Nagpur. The Konkan railway, the country's first major new rail line since Independence, passes through Maharashtra's coastal Konkan region. The Maharashtra government has also got a World Bank loan of Rs.2,602 crores for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project. It has also put up proposals for World Bank loans of Rs.1,800 crores for irrigation projects, Rs.1600 crores for piped water supply schemes and Rs.892 crores for afforestation schemes.
Agriculture is one of the State government's thrust areas. It says that the pace of agricultural growth in the State in the last two to three years has been constrained mainly owing to inadequate and erratic rainfall. The yield rates for most of the crops in the State are in general much below the national average. Moreover, in spite of large investments in irrigation projects, the area under irrigation has remained practically at the same level about 15 to 16 per cent. To enhance agricultural production, research is being focussed on the development of high yielding crop varieties. The agro-climatic differences in the State call for crop planning in both commercial as well as food crops. If done effectively, it may result in value addition, besides opening avenues for increase in non-agricultural employment in the processing industries. The development of power and transport facilties and infrastructure in rural areas is also being undertaken in order to help raise productivity in agriculture and provide farmers access to national and international markets. The Maharashtra government is also setting up agro-clinics to provide farmers single-window services for testing water, soil and fertilizers and advise on drip and sprinkle irrigation. It has also promised to give farmers Rs.600 a hectare crop of black jawari (millets). Milk producers have been given 80 paise a litre of milk since January 1, 2001, without passing the burden on to the customers.
Recently, the Vilasrao Deshmukh-led Democratic Front (D.F.) government took steps to ensure payment of fair wages to workers. It amended the Payment of Wages Act to compel employers to pay a fair wage. Industrial workers, especially the textile mill workers in Mumbai, have not been paid their outstanding wages for several years after the mills were closed down. The amended Act will provide protection to all employees earning up to Rs.10,000 a month. The minimum wages of one crore farm labourers in the State were increased by about Rs.10. As a result, wages increased from Rs.35 to Rs.45 in the scarcity- prone zone, and from Rs.41 to Rs.51 in irrigated regions.
By promising to construct 25,000 houses every year for poor people in the State, the D.F. government has undertaken the largest housing scheme for rural poor ever implemented by any government in Maharashtra till date. Under the programme, while 16,000 houses would be constructed in rural areas, 9,000 would be built in urban areas. In the first stage of the scheme, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) is constructing 50,000 flats in 61 places, including cities, towns and taluk headquarters. Houses normally costing Rs.30,000 would be made available to applicants for just Rs.5,000. The government has also decided to spend 9 per cent of the planned expenditure of the State Plan for tribal development.
According to the Economic Survey of Maharashtra, Census 2001 data reveal that Maharashtra is the second-most populous State. Although the difference between crude birth rates and death rates for the State, based on the Sample Registration Scheme of the Registrar General of India, are lower than the national average, the population of the State has increased at a higher rate than the national average during the last decade. To contain population growth, the State government has taken various policy measures. The measures include reducing the neo-natal child mortality rate (children less than one month of age) by providing improved health facilities to women in pre-natal and ante-natal stages; enhancing education and counselling activities to raise the age of marriage; promoting spacing and other family planning methods among young couples; projecting a positive image of girls to reduce son preference and preventing sex selective abortions; and using the electronic media in a more imaginative and innovative way to promote family planning measures.
THE D.F. government will complete three years in office in October. A report, "The Three Years: A Journey full of Restraints and Efforts", outlines the government's achievements and the problems it has grappled with. The enactment of the Right to Information Act stands out in its list of achievements. The Act makes it mandatory for the government to provide information regarding the government and administration within 15 days of people demanding it. The Act guarantees transparent functioning of the government.
The report says that several steps have been taken to strengthen local government. Now, citizens can vote for their municipal president directly, instead of the president being chosen by the elected municipal councillors. To strengthen the panchayati raj system in the State, powers to plan and implement health, education, social justice, road and public works projects have been transferred from the State government to zilla parishads. The government gave more power to the zilla parishads by bringing 20 per cent of the budgetary provisions under their effective control. Recently, the D.F. government also decided to give zilla parishads a share of various levies and stamp duty incomes.
The State government has taken a major progressive decision to grant wider powers to gram sabhas (village meetings). Henceforth, all village level development works and selection of beneficiaries for individual welfare schemes would be decided through the gram sabhas. It would be binding on the gram panchayats to convene at least four gram sabha meetings in a year, to submit a statement of expenditure to the gram sabha and approve the list of beneficiaries of various welfare schemes recommended by the gram sabha. Recently, the government also decided to sanction fair price shops in a village to those persons recommended by the gram sabha.
In the tribal regions of the State, gram sabhas would be chaired not by the sarpanch of the gram panchayat but by a person elected by the gram sabha itself. Appropriate amendments would be made to the relevant Acts to provide special and more powers to the gram sabhas in the tribal regions. The gram sabhas in tribal regions would soon be empowered to plan and manage village tanks, prevent land transfers, approve land acquisition and accord sanctions to moneylending transactions. It means the new system would see the resurrection of the system of `Village Republics'.
The D.F. government will soon be facing elections. It has attempted to create a comprehensive plan to take on the challenges of a tough economy and therefore strengthen its position in the electoral race. The State, in any case, has a culture of efficiency and advancement. Irrespective of the party or parties in power, Maharashtra has always been at the forefront of development and, given its well-known rate of progressiveness, it will probably continue to remain at the top.