Dawning Maharashtra's Chief Ministership is not a joke! With its complex social, economic, geographical, and other equalities and inequalities it becomes a very tough challenge for any person. Maharashtra has its own set of problems and every govt tries to tackle it in their own possible way. History however suggests that till now every Maharashtra chief minister during his tenure has had to face some or the other form of disaster, be it natural-manmade, or otherwise. For example, during Yashwantrao Chavan's tenure there was Panshet disaster, Vasantrao Naik had to face problem of Koyna dam and drought. During Sharad Pawar's tenure, Marathwada Vidyapeeth Namantar issue and subsequently riots, Latur earthquake, Mumbai 1993 blasts. During Sudhakarrao Naik's tenure, there were issues of riots and during Babasaheb Bhosale's tenure police agitations etc.
As history suggests, Vilasrao Deshmukh's tenure (both times) proved to be extremely challenging one apart from problems like above faced by him. Actually speaking, he was directly or indirectly related to all the above problems in some way or the other. Post Panshet dam break, he came to Pune for studies and returned back to Babhlagaon after completion. At that time Maharashtra was reeling under severe drought situation. During that time, Vilasrao, as a Yuvak Congress leader alongwith his friends, who were members of Yuvak congress made available foodgrains to commoners at very lost cost. As regards to other calamities, he was in Maharashtra Cabinet as cabinet minister or MoS. During Latur's devastating earthquake, since belonging to that district, he undertook special responsibility. He also was Guardian Minister of Latur at that time.
He had to face some political crisis while accepting reins as Maharashtra Chief Minister. He had to face many tough situations while heading Aghaadi Govt consisting of 8 different parties.
TACKLING FINANCIAL CRISIS:
Yuti had taken Mah Govt to virtually the brink of bankruptcy during their rein from 1995 to 1999. Govt treasury was empty and it was laced with loans from everywhere. The next challenge in front of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was to refurbish and stabilize Mah's financial position. It was necessary that in order to facilitate big business houses to maintain their businesses basic infrastructural facilities, continuous electricity supply, industrial 'peace', no labour dispute situation, water supply, etc was made available to them. Though households had to bear the brunt of loadshedding, industrial houses were kept aloof from loadshedding thereby minimizing their losses. As a result, investments in Mah started to climb at a fast pace. CM Vilasrao Deshmukh was successful in managing to turn about 20% of total foreign investment in India towards Maharashtra.
He toured many foreign countries with a view to attract large scale foreign investments. As a Chief Minister of a State he spoke to many foreign business house heads as well as their managing directors during the course of his trips and managed to coax them into making huge investments in Mah. This not only helped bring huge foreign investments in Mumbai, but also cities like Pune, Nagpur and Nasik.
With his tremendous administrative skills and all-inclusive personality he managed to pick up the challenge of stabilizing Mah's financial picture.
TACKLING JULY 26, 2005:
This was a black day in the history of Mah with rain gods showering their worst on the whole state. It was the most devastating water brunt faced by Mah and Mumbai taking into account and combining all previous flood situations. About 50-60 km area in and around Mumbai was submerged in the water for 2-3 days. It was a heavenly disaster if one may call it because rains were tremendously torrential and it was literally pouring in buckets. The situation was further aggravated with the mis-timings of Arabian Sea high tide and low tide scenarios. The rain situation was experienced not only in Konkan, but areas like Sangli, Kolhapur areas. These three days combined gave Mah experience of facing atleast 2-3 rainy seasons at one time. The torrential rains had given 'watery grave' to many. Everything was affected to a great extent, that included businesses, routine chores, electricity, water, availability of essential commodities etc. There was great deal of financial loss too. Rehabilitation of affected was an important question, but before that providing timely help to these people was another grave concern.
People were stuck everywhere. Help system though operative could not function because it was near impossible to reach the affected people. Corporation, Police, railway employees, home guards, etc all were rendered helpless due to the rainfall. Such was the situation that even air traffic was hampered since flying strips were submerged under water. Only radio-TV transmission was on. These 2-3 days proved to mankind that indeed nature was the superpower and mankind is just another toy in its hands.
The situation was a true test of CM Vilasrao Deshmukh's crisis management skills. Correct assessment of the situation, constant talk with help systems, fast decisions were made by him during this acid test situation. He personally visited many affected parts and boosted the morale of people and rehab system.
He once received a call from then Hon.President of India APJ Abdul Kalam. He at that time was busy visiting affected parts and helping out people, facilitating that all possible help reaches them. Dr.Kalam was extremely touched with Vilasraoji's gesture of jumping in the forefront to help out people. He whole heartedly praised Vilasraoji and cited his example to others.
As expected, petty discussions started to erupt that apart from nature's hand, some manmade mistakes were also responsible for this situation. On seeing this, Vilasrao Deshmukh immediately ordered enquiry into the reasons why the situation was worsened to such an extent. One very important thing took place as regards help and rehabilitation field. A separate control room was setup in Mantralaya which was headed by a Secretary level person. This was probably the 1st time that Secretary level person worked in Mantralaya day in and out.
Slowly and steadily flood situation eased out and within 24 hours of situation easing out, routine operations were on track in Mumbai Mahanagar area. Once roads, rail tracks, air strips which were submerged under water were cleared, not a single moment was spared and rehab work was on in full swing now. Apart from govt machinery, Seva Bhavi NGOs were also involved in rehab work. Distribution of food packets, distribution of kerosene for meal preparation helped many people out. Poor people who will not be able to start their work immediately like skilled laborers, etc were given help by way of implementation of various schemes.
Disaster management plans were prepared for all districts and machinery was setup to look after its implementation. In Sangli army had to be called in for help and rehab. CM Vilasrao Deshmukh succeeded in keeping a wonderful balance and coordination between army and public-govt help systems.
This tragedy however made Vilasraoji think a bit differently on various public problems plaguing Mumbai. Mithi river encroachment issues and issue pertaining to various planned development works in Mumbai were thought about again. CM Vilasrao Deshmukh did not put blanket on errors made by various people from govt nor did he give way to aggressive demands of various environment orgzns. He set up a Pradhikaran to free mithi river from encroachment and at the same time to look over rehabilitation of people who were affected during this encroachment-free drive. All in all he once again proved his metal while tackling this dastardly natural phenomenon.
He, from time to time, had to handle various issues pertaining to suicides of cotton producers in Vidarbha and sugarcane producers in Marathwada, shortage of electricity, problems relating to school admission, problems pertaining to admission to professional courses etc.
In all this came Nov 26, 2008 attack, which changed the global face of terrorism. It was the biggest terrorist attack on any country after 9/11. Unfortunately, India's financial hub Mumbai was targeted by Islamic terrorists. Though 9 attackers were finally finished off by NSG and army, CM Vilasrao Deshmukh too played an important role in boosting the morale of Mumbaikars and people of Maharashtra during this crisis time and keeping the people united.
CM Vilasrao Deshmukh was touring another state when this attack took place. He returned back to Mumbai immediately on getting the news of attack. This was one of most audacious and unprecedented attack and no one in their dreams would have thought that terrorists will target innocents the way they did by mercilessly pumping bullets in women and even young children. Though initially it was a shock for everyone, Mumbai police and railway security officials rose up to the situation and managed to save many lives. Mumbai lost three of its top officers in the form of ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, Kamte, and Vijay Salaskar. This was a big blow to Mumbai police, yet like true lions they fought and succeeded to capture Ajmal Kasab alive. In times ahead, Kasab was instrumental in unveiling the entire plot. Mumbai police managed to corner the intensity of attacks till Southern Mumbai.
CM Vilasrao Deshmukh too was at the centre stage of handling the situation successfully. His crisis management was never questioned in this 26/11 attack episode. He resigned immediately as soon as high command ordered and set off for Delhi to take up new responsibilities.