The Vidarbha movement includes political activities organised by various individuals, organizations and political parties, for creation of an independent state of Vidarbha, within the Republic of India. The proposed state corresponds to the eastern 11 districts of the state of Maharashtra.
The following events led to the later movement:
· 1853: After British conquests from Mughals and Marathas in central India, in 1853 the Nagpur Province was formed with Nagpur as capital. It was administered by a commissioner under the central government.
· 1861: Central Province (CP) was formed by Britishers with Nagpur as capital, in the year 1861, after merging some more north-eastern areas into it, such as Chhindawara and Chhattisgadh.
· 1903: On 1 October, Berar was also placed under the administration of the commissioner of Central Provinces. It was then named as Central Province and Berar.
· 1935: The Government of India Act, passed by British Parliament formed a provincial assembly, providing for an election. "CP and Berar" was kept a separate entity, with Nagpur as capital.
· 1938: The CP and Berar assembly passed a resolution for creation of the separate Vidarbha State unanimously, at Nagpur on 1 October 1938.
· 1950: When the Constitution of India went into effect in 1950, "CP and Berar" became Madhya Pradesh, with Nagpur as capital.
- The Vidarbha region is nationally distinguished and geographically very distant from the state capital, Mumbai.
- Vidarbha is also historically different, culturally distinct, politically distracted, economically distressed and sentimentally quite different from western Maharashtra but was always dominated by it.
- The demand for a separate state of Vidarbha was raised for the first time over 100 years ago.
- As a result of which, the Central Provinces legislature passed a unanimous resolution to create a separate state of Mahavidarbha on 1 October 1938 at Nagpur, much before the demand for a "Samyukta Maharashtra" was even conceived.
After merger with the new state of Maharashtra, the demand of separate statehood was raised time and again, with an economic view, quoting the increasing developmental backlog.
- The Government of India appointed the first State Reorganisation Committee (SRC) under Chairmanship of Fazal Ali on 29 December 1953.
- Vidarbhite leaders at that time, like M S Aney and Brijlal Biyani, submitted a memorandum to State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) for a separate Vidarbha State.
- Bharatratna Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had also favoured a "One state - One language" principle for reorganisation of states. Accordingly, he submitted his views about forming at least 2 separate states of Marathi-speaking people, instead of a single large state of Maharashtra. As per his opinion, one state should have one language but at the same time, there can be two or more separate states of one language, depending upon the need for efficient administration, geographic and historical need and sentiments of local people. He had clearly favoured "Vidarbha State" with Nagpur as capital, saying, "Single government can not administer such a huge state as United Maharashtra."
The Fazal Ali SRC, after considering these memoranda and all other related aspects, favoured a separate Vidarbha State with Nagpur as capital in the year 1956.
- But even after the recommendation of SRC headed by Fazal Ali, under the influence of western Maharashtra congress leaders, Vidarbha was made part of the new state of Maharashtra in 1960 by the central government, favouring the "One language - One state" principle and Nagpur city lost the capital status.
- Nagpur thus became the only city in independent India, which lost "state capital status" after historically being a capital of the biggest state of India (by area) for more than 100 years.
The 1953 Nagpur Pact assures equitable development of all the regions of the proposed Marathi State. Most prominent clause of the Nagpur Pact was: one session of Maharashtra state assembly in Nagpur city every year, with minimum six weeks duration, to discuss issues exclusively related to Vidarbha.
The signatories to the pact in 1953 were:
· Yashwantrao Chavan, then Minister in Morarji Desai ministry of Bombay State
· Ramrao Krishnarao Patil, Gandhian, Ex ICS Officer and member of first Planning Commission.
On 1 May 1960, the Vidarbha state, favoured by Fazal Ali SRC, was merged with a newly formed Maharashtra State, under the agreement Nagpur Pact.
- The Vidarbha region under new Maharashtra state continued to suffer in development.
- This gave impetus to the demand of more equitable development of all regions of Maharashtra.
- The area supplies raw material in the form of electricity, minerals, rice and cotton to the more-developed western Maharashtra.
- People of the Vidarbha area find themselves 600–1,000 kilometres (400–600 mi) away from the state capital, Mumbai, and have a feeling of this region being a colony of western Maharashtra.
Under these circumstances, the Maharashtra Government appointed a committee, to study regional imbalances in Maharashtra. The committee found that:
"The failure to report to the state assembly every year in terms of the Nagpur Agreement, has been a serious lapse on the part of the state Government. If a report had been made to state legislature, as per the Nagpur Agreement, the matter would have received sustained attention. In the circumstances this did not happen."
Vijay Kelkar committee report on balanced regional development in Maharashtra
The high-level Vijay Kelkar committee on balanced regional development in Maharashtra lays a clear road map for speedy and effective development of Vidarbha and Marathwada, the two regions lagging far behind rest of Maharashtra (excluding Mumbai). For removing the disparities, it has made 146 recommendations and also formulated a model for financial allocation that aims to remove the irrigation backlog in next eight years and that of other sectors like health, education and connectivity by the end of the 14th plan or say the next 12 years.
- It has also recommended shifting of the state secretariat (Mantralaya) to Nagpur, the state's second capital, for the month of December every year.
- The committee has said that Vidarbha should get autonomous status on the lines of Meghalaya. The north-eastern state was granted an autonomous status in 1969, when it was a part of Assam, by the 24th constitutional amendment..
- The autonomous status can be an alternative for separate statehood for the region (which a section of the local population has been demanding), the report says, adding that all the important finance-related portfolios should be allocated to the leaders from Vidarbha.
- The people of Vidarbha feel that issues of the region are neglected and the Mumbai-headquartered government metes out a step-motherly treatment to them, it notes.
- The Mantralaya should be shifted to Nagpur from Mumbai from December 1 to 31 every year, and as a part of follow-up of 'Nagpur pact' (whereby Vidarbha leaders agreed to merger of the region within Maharashtra in 1960), some of the major directorates should be shifted to Aurangabad and Nagpur, the committee has said.
- It also says that all the pending irrigation projects in Vidarbha should be completed on a priority basis.
- It recommends that the overall regional financial allocation percentage of rest of Maharashtra (RoM) be brought down from the current 58% to 41.45%. It recommends raising the allocations of Vidarbha from 23.03% to 33.24% and that of Marathwada to 25.31% from the current 18.15%.
- Among several such practical measures that would ensure speedy development, the report has also recommended that political power (resource rich ministries) be equally distributed among the three regions instead of being concentrated in RoM, in a way blaming this for the imbalance. The report also cites official figures to stress that in last 15 years Vidarbha and Marathwada witnessed declining per capital incomes while RoM recorded impressive growth.
- The report has suggested several measures like providing cheaper power in generating areas of Vidarbha in addition to tax cuts and capital at lower rates to attract industrialization in Vidarbha. The board also suggests strengthening of development boards by restructuring them.
- Each board should be headed by the chief minister with a senior minister and some elected representatives as members while a senior officer of additional chief secretary be entrusted planning and supervising its work of making annual plan and five year perspective plan for the region.
- Though not part of recommendations, but in the chapter on perspectives of stakeholders, it records views like demand for autonomy for Vidarbha or sentiments aired in support of creating a separate state, if the government is unable to remove the injustice of underdevelopment and deprivation.