In 1992 India began moving from a socialist, planned economy to a market-driven capitalist economy. The big government-owned industries (coal and steel) had to accept competition from private companies as did government banks and telecommunications. The country gradually opened to foreign investment.
Two decades later Pune has both benefitted from and suffered from huge economic and social changes. The city was well-positioned to exploit the opportunities created by a dose of market capitalism. The workforce was more educated than in many states,
There were jobs in Pune as a younger generation of high caste entrepreneurs started factories for water pumps, cars, cement , radios, high tension lines for electrification. . The colleges grew and proliferated to meet needs for teachers at all levels. Dozens of new banks started up. Foreign companies started factories in Pune for tractors, cars, computers, cell phones, communication towers, refrigerators, televisions.
Result: a huge in-migration of poor rural people, many lower caste, and without land. Pune, today, has grown from under a million to over 6 million. That means six times the population, six times the food, six times the water (more if you include the factories, the service sector, the farms to grow the food), six times the waste, six times the number of people at events such as marriages, six times the number of commuters.
In some ways Pune has been fortunate. Damming the many rivers that drop off the plateau and down the Sahyadri Mountains has provided a steadily increasing supply of water and hydropower for both Pune and Mumbai. The electrified villages throughout Maharshtra now use pumps and tube wells to yield much larger annual crops through irrigation. The question is whether this development is sustainable. The answer is mixed, but the evidence suggests that the development of hydroelectric has about reached its limits. There are few remaining rivers to dam. And in large parts of Maharashtra there is not enough rainfall to recharge the aquifers.
When I first traveled back and forth across North India,, Central India, and Maharashtra decades ago, all agriculture was based on bullocks and plow. On my travels in the last few years I have seen no bullocks at all (with the exception of farms in a very poor tribal area in western Madhya Pradesh). With ubiquitous tractors there is no doubt about vastly increased yields, but many experts have serious doubts about sustainability. The discovery of large quantities of natural gas off India’s coasts certainly helps in the relatively short run, but these reserves are finite and the demand for water and food only increases.
In and around Pune the amount of agricultural land is rapidly shrinking. In earlier decades one could bicycle out from Pune into farms in about twenty minutes. Now, it takes more than an hour by car to reach rural farms. Tens of thousands of acres of productive land have been lost to development. Pune can certainly no longer feed itself from the agriculture of the surrounding area. Thus, Pune now has an endless line of trucks bringing produce and grains from farther and farther away.