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Development Challenges for Agriculture in Maharashtra

Maharashtra is heralded as one of the economically advanced states, but this illusion crashed under the attack of Covid-19 virus and economic deterioration is expected to follow. It is argued here that the state policy dished out a raw deal to the agricultural sector and set the sector under severe stress. The path of this retrogression, reasons behind the trends and the possible policy platform for the last six decades are traced. Stagnation has gripped the agricultural sector, and it is losing cultivable land to other uses. This is accompanied by a sharp increase in small and marginal holdings. Surprisingly, the state has no agricultural policy document in place and the sector largely depends on only sporadic firefighting approaches with a policy paralysis.

Maharashtra is confronting a critical economic collapse due to the impact of COVID-19. A simple question crops up here, whether this severe collapse could have been avoided by selecting a more balanced industrial and regional development model. Immediately after the reorganisation of the state, the economic development policy was engrossed with industrial and urban development as their vanguards. The first step was the formation of the Board of ­Industrial Development and the Maharashtra Industrial Deve­lopment Corporation (MIDC) in 1962. Irrigation development was recognised with the appointment of the Barve Committee in 1962 (GoM 1962). The state’s prominent development challenges were the predominance of rainfed areas, fluctuating climatic conditions, and acute underdevelopment in Vidarbha, Marathwada, and Konkan. Agriculture was the mainstay of the population. Over the last six decades, except sugar cane, precious little has been achieved in the sector relative to other regions of the country (Sawant et al 1999; World Bank 2003).

Right from the beginning, the agricultural sector of the state was in need of proper policy interventions. The devastating droughts of 1965–66 and their subsequent residual effect brought forth the pathetic condition of the sector (GoM 1960; Subramanian 1975). Conditions did not improve over the years and 1972–73 confronted another severe drought that was analysed by the Sukthankar Committee Report (GoM 1973). The neighbouring state of Karnataka established a Drought Monitoring Cell and achieved advances in drought preparedness. No doubt, Maharashtra government sought advices through the appointment of many expert committees, but these reports were neatly stacked without systematically implementing them. It is unfortunate that the most industrially progressive state of the country has, as yet, no systematic agricultural policy document.

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Updated On : 8th Jul, 2020

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