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Fadnavis government has its work cut out

Intro: BJP’s first chief minister of Maharashtra needs to do a lot to development India’s richest state that needs to shift urban economy concentration to gain highest growth trajectory.

Though it is premature to comment on the performance of hardly six-month-old Devendra Fadnavis-led regime, yet opposition underlines that state ruling government has failed on every front in Maharashtra. However, the ruling government was quick to trash series of allegations, saying that both the political opponents – Congress and NCP – lack moral right to comment anything on current Maharashtra government, as they faced major electoral drubbing despite ruling the state for one-and-a-half-decade.

Fadnavis took charge as state chief minister at a time when Maharashtra, which contributes more than 16 percent of India’s GDP, was parched by drought that triggered many farmers to commit suicide.

Patchy rainfalls and hailstorms have been pathetically hitting financially-weak farmers of India’s richest and most urbanised state Maharashtra since ages.

Recently Maharashtra government extended a ban on killing cows to bulls and bullocks through Animal Preservation Bill, but many say the beef ban in Maharashtra would aggravate the problems of farmers in the state.

The opposition – either weak or strong – is bound to contradict the moves of a ruling government, and so were the Congress and NCP, whose coalition ruled the state for 15 years in Maharashtra where farmers remained mired in poverty triggering them to commit suicide amidst lurch state of mind.

Development Plan

BJP’s avowed quest of development fetched impressive chunk of vote share in last state polls in Maharashtra. But I wonder how Maharashtra government would develop the state if it is still confused over Development Plan (DP) whose disaster caused Sitaram Kunte to lose his position as BMC chief? Did the government scrap DP only after facing inundation of complaints in it?

Urbanisation

Maharashtra – an economic and industrial powerhouse of the country – is home to India’s highest urban population which, according to United Nations report, is projected to add 404 million urban dwellers. The burgeoning metropolis has been lying on ventilator since long. Fadnavis government will have to immediately act to accommodate the rapid urbanization and improve the quality of life in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane cities, which were developed keeping residential focus in mind but simultaneously lack economic drivers. There is compelling requirement to develop new economic centre, as the large scale horizontal development may not be sustainable in the long run.

The skyrocketing population in urban regions of Maharashtra has resulted in significant pressure on limited land parcels inflating the land prices. The state faced urban housing shortage, according to government data of 2012, of 19.4 lakh units. KPMG suggests that Maharashtra would require 50 lakh new houses by 2022 to meet the existing shortfall and future need taking into account rising urban population and reducing family size.

There is enough room for the development of suitable infrastructure to improve access to fastest growing cities like Pune, Nagpur and Nashik.

There is huge gap between income and affordability of housing in Mumbai, as 50 percent of Mumbai’s households –according to World Bank Census 2011 – earn less than Rs. 20,000 per month and they can afford to buy houses priced at Rs. 10 lakh. But, ironically, an average price of MHADA dwelling for Economic Weaker Section is about Rs. 15 lakh.

Undoubtedly, the state government should redevelop its overcrowded cities along with building new ones, at affordable price, to accommodate an extra 10 lakh new city dwellers a year.

KPMG reports that Maharashtra needs to shift urban economy concentration from a handful of cities (such as Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, etc) to new cities. The government has taken numerous steps to develop new cities and it has witnessed some success.

The other important areas which need immediate attention include uninterrupted supply of electricity, better connectivity of road, railways and airports to integrate the transport infrastructure development.

Slum rehabilitation policy

Though the slum population has declined by about 10 percent in 2001, yet – as per Census 2011 – around 24 per cent of Maharashtra’s urban population resides in slum with limited access to basic services such as water sewerage, housing, and Mumbai has a slum population of more than 52 lakh across 11 lakh households. The government needs to undertake a detailed assessment of the current slum rehabilitation policy and bring necessary changes in the policy to expedite slum rehabilitation project.

There is urgent step required to prevent decay of Maharashtra and Mumbai in particular. Is the erudite and popular chief minister Devendra Fadnavis listening?

(About the author: The columnist is senior journalist who has worked in leading media houses like Hindustan Times, ANI REUTERS. He has been writing extensively on topics of national interest. He is also a political commentator. @diwakar_news)

Diwakar Sharma

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