03 September 2005

Maharashtra bags a big one

After returning from his visit to Andhra Pradesh, Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank President, had lots of good words for the rural women there. According to him, rural women in Andhra Pradesh were leading the way in India’s growing self-help movement.

However, it was Maharashtra, and not Andhra Pradesh, which bagged the first deal with the World Bank. It was a US$325 million loan agreement for the Maharashtra Water Sector Improvement Project (MWSIP). Apparently, repair, renovation and restoration of water bodies were national priorities and the MWSIP was singled out to initiate the development process… with the World Bank’s help. It had been approved almost two months ago.

Of course, the focus was still rural, but not on women alone.

“Home to 96 million people, Maharashtra is India’s second largest state. It faces complex challenges in managing its water in a changing environment. Nearly 60 percent of the population lives in rural areas, of which about 80 percent are engaged in agriculture, consuming 80 percent of the state’s water. At the same time, Maharashtra is moving rapidly into urbanization and industrialization, increasing the pressure on scarce resources.”

For the Indian government, building basic infrastructure in the rural areas will be in focus for the next four years. But for the moment, Maharashtra is in celebration.

I guess the rural women in Andhra Pradesh will have to wait.

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