The Maharashtra government has almost dumbed down the 25-year-old statutory development boards of Vidarbha and Marathwada, as well as the rest of Maharashtra. The state cabinet, which met at least twice in the month of April, did not take any decision to extend the term of these boards, even as they expire on Thursday, April 30.
Power Minister and Congress leader from Vidarbha Nitin Raut, Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyarihad demanded a five year extension for these boards. No other minister from backward regions like Vidarbha and Marathwada supported this demand. The lack of interest in taking the matter up for discussion made it clear that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government wasn’t much keen on extending the term of these boards.
These boards act like a think tank and advisory board for the governor. As per the Act, directions of the governor are binding for the state government. In other states, the elected government has full authority to distribute funds for all the projects. However, in Maharashtra, the state government doesn’t have complete authority over its budget spending. The governor directs the state on the distribution of funds for Vidarbha, Marathwada and the rest of Maharashtra.
The boards were a result of Vidarbha joining Maharashtra in 1956 based on the Nagpur Agreement, where regional equitable balance was guaranteed. Article 371 (2) was inserted in the Constitution, which mandated the Maharashtra state government to set up these three boards. Unlike Vidarbha, Marathwada had to wait for 38 years to get the boards mentioned in the Constitution.
The boards were first set up in 1994. Since then, the term of these boards were extended for five years.
State will extend the term: Raut
When asked about his demand for the extension of the term of these boards, Raut admitted that the state cabinet has not yet taken any decision on this issue.
“The state cabinet will soon take a decision on this issue. We will request the president through the governor to extend the term of these boards. This can be done even after April 30,” Raut stated.
Boards need extension: Sancheti
“The statutory development boards were set up to remove regional imbalance in the development sector. These boards, so far, have played a great role in removing the backlog of backward regions like Vidarbha and Marathwada,” said Chainsukh Sancheti, chairman of Vidarbha Statutory Development Board.
The board, in Vidarbha, prepares a blueprint every year of each district’s development plan. “If the board does not exist, how will these districts be developed?” questions Sancheti. In Vidarbha, the backlog has not been removed yet. 60 tehsils and 18 city councils are below the average of the Human Development Index. “Therefore, the state government should extend the term of these boards,” Sancheti added.