THE people of Vidarbha are united on one issueif Uttarakhand can get statehood, why cant they? The main reason for the demand for statehood is the economic and developmental neglect by Maharashtra which has left the region backward. In this, it shares a common platform with Uttarakhand. Vidarbha is spread over 97,404 sq km, Uttarakhand over 51,125 sq km; Vidarbhas population is 1.74 crore, Uttarakhands is 65 lakh; Vidarbha has 66 assembly seats and 11 Lok Sabha constituencies, Uttarakhand 19 assembly and four Lok Sabha seats.
Vidarbhas litany of woes brings to the fore the stepmotherly treatment it has been subjected to by the state government. For instance, of the Rs 31,977 crore mega projects announced for Vidarbha by the state since July 1991, projects worth over Rs 22,000 crore have been dropped. The region generates 80 per cent of Maharashtras thermal power, of which 72 per cent goes to the rest of the state while the people suffer from acute power shortage. The government set up high-tech infrastructure to export mangoes and grapes but has done little to cash in on Vidarbhas famous oranges: the fruit is cultivated on 56,663 ha. The region, its people claim, has been neglected in every sphere. Result: it has the worst roads in the stateof the Rs 15,000 crore earmarked to develop roads in Maharashtra, only Rs 900 crore comes to Vidarbha; irrigation supply is poor though agriculture is the mainstay; a mineral-rich area, it has 6,660 million tonne of coal deposits but only 22 million tonne are mined annually.
Further, per capita income in nine districts of Vidarbha (barring Nagpur and Chandrapur) range between Rs 1,916 and Rs 2,275 against the state average of Rs 3,901; per capita capital investment is Rs 42 for Vidarbha and Rs 373 for western Maharashtra.