Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and Pune Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday condemned the August 9 police firing in Maval taluk, which resulted in the death of three agitating farmers.
“The firing should not have happened at any cost,” Mr. Pawar told a press conference here. He sought to challenge the charges made against him for being responsible for the farmers’ protests. He defended the water supply project and denied the allegations that the farmers would suffer because of it. While stating that the government knew about the protests eight days in advance, he added that the police could have handled the situation differently. “The protests should not have been allowed to happen on the Expressway which is a lifeline for the cities of Pune and Mumbai. Section 144 should have been imposed on the protesters,” he stated. He stated that 900 policemen were deputed for the protest venue, but the mob went out of control. “I had told the Home department to take care of the law and order situation. Further orders to the police should have come from their senior officials the Home department. The judicial enquiry will decide what went wrong in the Home Department,” he said.
Farmers from 65 villages staged the protest against the diversion of water from the Pavana Dam to the twin industrial cities of Pimpri and Chinchwad. which turned violent.
Don’t blame Guardian Minister
However, he said that wherever police firings happened in the past, the Guardian Minister of the district was never blamed. “It is the Home Minister or the Chief Minister who are targeted usually. Why is the Opposition targeting me now?”, he asked. State Home Minister R.R. Patil has justified the police firing , while saying that the police fired in self-defence, as the protesters turned violent. When asked why his opinion was different to that of his party colleague, Mr. Pawar said, “whatever I have said is my opinion. Questions related to Mr. Patil should be directed to him.”
Explaining the details of the project, he said that the 20 lakh population of Pimpri and Chinchwad would benefit from the 35-km pipeline from the Pavana Dam to the twin cities. The project would require 34 acres of land. Three tmc of water from the dam will still be allowed to flow in the river which will benefit the villagers from the surrounding areas. “The farmers should not have listened to their leaders who told them that the project will snatch their land and water from them. Many attempts were made by the government to have dialogues with the farmers and tell them the real situation, but there was a poor response,” Mr. Pawar said.
Asked about the further course of action, Mr. Pawar said, “A meeting between senior Ministers of the Cabinet would soon decide whether to go ahead with the project or not.” Cheif Minister Prithviraj Chavan visited the villages, where the protests took place. Later in the evening, he was to have a meeting with the local administration regarding the incident.
Pointing the finger at the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr. Pawar reiterated that the incident was a pre planned conspiracy. “The injured have informed me that they were brought to the protest venue in trucks.” The media should question who paid for the trucks, Mr. Pawar said. ”Never before has it happened that the Opposition party has declared compensation to the dead and the injured. BJP gave Rs. 5 lakh to the families of the dead. Why was this case singled out? Aren’t the victims of other tragedies innocent enough,” he asked.
Earlier in the day, BJP Spokesperson Prakash Javadekar denied the allegations of the BJP hatching the conspiracy. “We do not give lessons in rioting. That is the NCP tradition,”he stated. The BJP also demanded a CBI enquiry under the surveillance of the High Court. Hindu