Give some credit to Maharashtra
After Raj Thackeray violently hijacked the cause of the Marathi people, a lot has been written for and against him. Some of what I read about him has amused me and some has amazed me. But what never fails to annoy me is when those who are against Raj Thackeray’s politics deride Maharashtra. They mouth platitudes about unity and being Indian, but are quick to talk against people of another region. I think Raj T brings out their hatred for other communities otherwise why should they attack Maharashtra state and Maharashtrians just because some right wing politician plays at divisive politics? Its reminds me of what happens when there is a terrorist attack…those who are prejudiced against Muslims immediately start to deride Islam and Muslims.
That the reason for this post. This is not about Raj T’s politics and if anyone wants to know my views on that can read this post. This post is about Maharashtra. I have been blogging for over two years but this is the first time I am writing about some of the achievements of my own state. Considering the atmosphere today in the country today I think I need to do it for all those who think that Maharashtra doesn’t deserve what it has achieved, or those who think that Maharashtrians as a race are parochial.
Okay, lets look at some facts.
There are reasons why Maharashtra is a developed state today (although Modi’s Gujarat has long overtaken it). Most of the reasons are historical because the development in Maharashtra started a long time ago, even before it was visible in better infrastructure and greater industrialisation. The development of Maharashtra began with its people as far back as the 19th century.
Social reform movement
The social reform movement in Maharashtra has made Maharashtra what it is today. Here is a list of some of the great leaders:
- Balshastri Jambhekar (1812-1846) who fought for women’s rights
- Gopal Hari Deshmukh (1823-1892) who fought against orthodox Brahmans who opposed social and religious reforms
- Jotirao Govindrao Phule (1827-1890) and Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur (1874-1922)who fought against the caste system, and encouraged women of the lower castes to get educated
- Ramakrishna Gopal Bhandarkar (1837-1925) and Justice Ranade (1842-1901) who were founder members of the Prarthana Samaj, which worked for social and religious reform
- Gopal Ganesh Agarkar (1856-1895) who also worked for social reform
- Dhondo Keshav Karve (1858-1962)and Bhaurao Patil who devoted their lives to the cause of women’s education
- Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922) who founded the Sharada Sadan in 1890 to help upper-class widows
- Mahatma Jyotirao Phule who founded Satyashodhak Samaj
- Vitthal Ramji Shinde (1873-1944), fought for the eradication of untouchability through his Depressed Classes Mission
- Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil (1887-1959) who developed the Rayat Shikshan Sanstha
- Dr. Panjabrao Deshmukh, Tarabai Modak in Vidarbha and Anutai Wagh in the Adivasi areas who worked for social reform.
- Dr Shivaji Patwardhan and Baba Amte served the poor
- Vijay Merchant fought for the physically handicapped
- Vinoba Bhave gave up his life for Sarvodaya.
- And ofcourse there was Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), the main architect of the Indian Constitution and the creator of a social and political awareness among the Scheduled Castes of India. A hero revered by all in India today.
- Anna Hazare (added later), a social activist whose special achievement was his contribution to the development of Ralegan Siddhi, a village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra, India and establishing it as a model village, for which he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by Govt. of India, in 1992.
These leaders formed the backbone of the social reform movement but they did not arise out of nowhere. They drew their inspiration from saints like Dnyaneshwar, Eknath, Chakradhar, and Tukaram as well as kings like Shivaji.
It is interesting to note that while these reform movements were going on, there was already a minority of educated upper castes who had had a privileged “western” education. Most of these people turned to the professions like medicine and engineering or joined the services. This too contributed to the development of the state. In fact educated people from Maharashtra started to migrate to the west in the early sixties due to lack of job opportunities here. Not many Maharashtrians were good at business.
The social reform movement resulted in the availability of skilled workers and managers for industries.
Literacy Rate and Women’s Empowerment
The literacy rate of the state according to the 2001 census 76.88 per cent, well above the national average of 64.84 percent. Literacy rate of women in Maharashtra is the second highest of all the states. It is also above the national average. As per the Census, 2001, Maharashtra the second highest literacy rate for women (68 per cent), after Kerala (88 per cent.) One of the reasons for this is that within 15 years of the introduction of the State government-sponsored Savitribai Phule Foster Parent Scheme (an effort of the State government, school authorities, teachers and citizens) which developed, promoted and financially supported girls’ education in schools run by village councils, tehsil councils, district councils and municipal corporations in Maharashtra, millions of girls from the marginalised sections completed their formal education. Education for girls up till the tenth grade is free in state board schools.
No people can rise unless the women are educated. The women add to the workforce and in turn educate their sons and daughters.
Another example of the upliftment of Maharashtrian women has been the entry of women into priesthood in Maharashtra. There are hundreds of women priests in Pune, a city known for being a leader in women’s education, widow re-marriage and family planning. In fact Pune-based Shankar Seva Samiti (SSS) has trained, through its one-year course, over 7,000 women priests from all castes. Another Pune-based organisation, the Jnana Prabodhini (JP), has also trained women and today there are more women priests in Pune that male ones!
Maharashtra may not have been the pioneer state to give daughters the same property rights as sons (Andhra Pradesh was the first, followed by Tamil Nadu), it was still one of the first, along with Karnataka. The state did this before the central legislation (The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005) made it compulsory for all states.
Law and Order
This has deteriorated of late, but by and large Maharashtra has been a fairly peaceful state as compared to many although communal tensions have been rising since the nineties. What is more important is that industrialists feel safe setting up industries here. They do not fear lynching, kidnapping of their children, or political parties sabotaging their works. Polling in this state is also largely peaceful and fair.
Infrastructure and political climate conducive to industrialisation
Maharashtra has had a good infrastructure as compared to many states even though it has deteriorated now. Otherwise the industries wouldn’t have come here, not private industry. Politicians have been wooing industrialists for a long time now. No one has forced industrialists to set up here. They came because they found the skilled workforce they needed, friendly government policies, and a social environment in Mumbai where they were free to speak their language and practice their culture.
Film-makers arrived in Mumbai and set up their industry here not because Mumbai was the financial capital, but because the infrastructure was already available here. The Mumbai film industry was flagged off by the Marathi one.
The first full length film, Pundalik, was made by a Maharashtrian NG Chitre alongwith R.G. Torney. In 1913 the first feature film, Raja Harishchandra, was made by another Maharashtrian, Dadasaheb Phalke, who is known as the father of Indian Cinema. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award is considered the highest award in Indian Cinema and awarded for lifetime achievement in Cinema.
In the nascent years of the Indian film industry there were many Maharashtrian actors and actresses in the industry, at a time when not many girls from other communities dared venture into the field. Right from Durga Khote, Nutan, Shobana Samarth to singer/actor, Baburao Pendharkar.
What I am saying is: give Maharashtra some credit for giving birth to the Indian film industry. It didn’t happen by chance. And Bollywood came to Mumbai because the infrastructure was here, the actors, the technicians, the people, they were here. If later Marathi cinema started to die there are many reasons for it, but that is beyond the scope of this post.
No one forced industrialists and filmmakers to set up house here. They came because the infrastructure was ready, the people were friendly, accommodating and welcoming. The average Maharashtrians has never had too much pride in his language and he welcomed Hindi with open arms. Started right after Independence when Maharashtra gave up its original Modi script in favour of Devanagiri. If there is one people who have fallen hard for the rhetoric that Hindi unites the country, it is the Maharashtrians. Yes, today there is a backlash, but from a right wing organisation.
Is the average poor and lower middle class Maharashtrian wrong if he resents those who work for lower wages?
A lot of talk is being bandied about on the fact that migrant workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who come to Mumbai are working for lower wages. After all its all about competition and if the locals can’t compete just too bad. They have no right to feel angry, they should start singing jana gana mana!! It’s not so simple and for more details you can read my post here.
Let me give you both sides and you be the judge. On one hand you have the average Maharashtrian worker who pays rent or is paying back a loan for his one room tenement, wants to put his children into an English medium school, dreams of them going to college and also has a wife who wants to be in the workforce because he wants a double income to achieve his dreams. He is a man who has electricity bills and water bills to pay and aspires to own a two-wheeler one day. How is this man to compete with a migrant who is living on a pavement? A man who has no expenses except paying for his daily bread? A man whose family may not even be living with him? The man on the pavement is not wrong either. He needs the job and will work at a lower salary, any salary, and is open to being exploited by industry.
In my opinion neither of these two men are wrong. They are not to blame. It is the companies who are wrong. They need to pay decent living wages to their workforce, ensure that their workers live a decent life. Then you can take the best worker for the job, whatever his antecedents. But if as a company owner you are paying your worker less than a living wage, then shame on you. You cannot make profits at the expense of human misery.
I think I have written enough. Have probably left out a lot of things and if my post sounded as if I was trying to prop up Maharashtra, that was not the intention. This is a post written in defense. And I am aware that Maharashtra has lost its status as the most industrialised state, and I am aware that Maharashtra has neglected its agriculture. That people in this state are starving too, farmers have committed suicide, and that the income gap is increasing, that there is malnutrition, that the law and order situation seems to be deteriorating…but I cannot cover all aspects here.
Life goes in a cycle. And Maharashtra will continue its downturn unless we get better leaders. I am not talking parties here, but individuals. Today corrupt individuals are ruining Maharashtra. And lawless individuals like Raj T are exploiting the sentiments of the common people. And equally souless politicians from Bihar who instead of developing their state are using Raj T as a means to garner more votes. And the media sensationalises all these things for TRP’s, inciting people from other states. Shame on them all.