India’s most prosperous state, Maharashtra is home to its wealthiest citizens as well as some of the country’s poorest. Located on the western coast, and flanked by the Arabian Sea, its lush fertile coast is contrasted by its annually parched and drought-prone interiors. Maharashtra is known as much for its busy stock markets as for its pioneering work in the area of small-scale industries.
Cosmopolitan Mumbai is not only the state capital but the country’s undisputed financial capital, though about 54 per cent of its residents live in its slums. Tens of thousands of migrants flock to Maharashtra’s towns and cities each year from all across the country in search of work. This makes Maharashtra the second most populous state with 112 million people. Still, nearly half of these residents live in villages.
With an economy driven by textiles, shipping, manufacturing, trade, tourism and the entertainment industry, prosperous Maharashtra contributes 40 per cent of the national revenue. Meanwhile, village economies remain largely agrarian. The state is often in the news in the wake of a series of suicides by cotton farmers.
Maharashtra is also counted among the country’s most progressive states with infant, child and maternal mortality rates lower than the national average and improving school enrolment and literacy levels. However, challenges remain in health, WASH, education and child protection. One in four women has no formal education. These low female literacy rates make girls more vulnerable to early marriage.
Almost 18 per cent of girls are married before they turn 18 and become mothers while they are still teenagers. Almost half of Maharashtra’s women are anaemic. This perpetuates a cycle of malnutrition, illness and, often, early mortality. Other challenges include a lack of quality education and healthcare.