As a part of preparations for the Winter Session of the State Legislature, scheduled from December 12, around 500 staffers of the legislature from Mumbai have started their routine from December 1 at Nagpur. These staffers will be camping at Nagpur for an entire month and will soon be joined by almost a 1,000 employees from Mantralaya, who would be setting up offices near Vidhan Bhavan in Nagpur within a day or two.
This has been an annual affair since 1960 as a part of commitment made in the Nagpur agreement (1956) when Vidarbha decided to join with Maharashtra leaving its identity as a part of Central Province and Berar. Nagpur was the capital city of the previous state. And to maintain its identity, leaders from Vidarbha insisted that Nagpur should be the second capital, the government of the new state should camp there for a month during every year with and hold at least one session of the State Legislature as a part of the agreement. Since then, Nagpur, popularly known as the Orange city, witnesses a flurry of activity during November or December every year and plays host to ministers and the state administration.
The concept cannot be termed wrong, as it is taken for granted that the State Legislature and the government should devout maximum time for the issues of Vidarbha. People from 11 districts of this region, farmers and tribals mostly; throng the city with their demands for development of Vidarbha and issues, in anticipation of an early solution.
But, amidst various political developments that took place in the chilling winters of Vidarbha, voices of dissent over the expenditure incurred to host sessions and usefulness of it have been heard routinely by all. Still, many from the region say the funds spent on holding the sessions could well be utilised for development work, which has always demanded equal share in the state's spending, compared to Western Maharashtra and Mumbai.
People from Vidarbha have always been on a warpath with their counterparts from Western Maharashtra and Mumbai, alleging that most of the funds were always diverted for these regions.
If one tries to understand the kind of expenditure incurred for legislative sessions and their usefulness, the state government is not that forthcoming. When MiD DAY sought details of the preparedness for the session, they didn't come easily. Babus from a section in General Administration Department, that coordinate for Nagpur sessions stumped us by revealing that just Rs 1.5 crore were kept at the disposal of the divisional commissioner of Nagpur for the session's preparations.
However, the ground reality is otherwise. Apart from nearly 500 employees of the State Legislature, about 2,000 Mantralaya employees camp at Nagpur. Besides, a number of officers from the allied offices of the 29 departments in Mantralaya, government-run corporations and boards, district-level officers, all camp in Nagpur. At least 1,000 state government vehicles are requisitioned from the entire state and reach Nagpur to ferry officials, ministers, their staffers and so on, from Vidhan Bhavan to their respective accommodations. The state PWD, it is said spends around Rs 80 crore for the upkeep of ministers' bungalows, MLA hostel, guest houses and tenements used as temporary accommodation for the employees.
Every year, at least 15 to 20 trucks, buses ferry important documents, files from Vidhan Bhavan and Mantralaya for the session. Special bogies are attached to trains running between Mumbai and Nagpur, especially for the staffers.
Besides, the State Home department, in charge of the state police, tries its best to keep the city incident-free. For which, thousands of policemen and their seniors camp in Nagpur, expenditure of which further adds to the state kitty. In all, approximately Rs 400 crore is spent on the Winter Session, claimed a government official.
Things apart, the locals patiently bare the inconvenience caused to them due to restrictions imposed on their movements citing security concerns. Roads near the offices and Vidhan Bhavan are cordoned off during the session period. With the presence of thousands of policemen always on the lookout for Naxals, the city becomes a fortress.
However, what the region gets from the exercise is not an entirely unknown fact, as Vidarbha always alleges discriminatory treatment from Mumbai and Western Maharashtra. The demand for a separate state is yet to die down whenever demands for Telangana and other states are made.