A violent agitation by farmers to protest land acquisition by the state government in Pune district for a water pipeline and the support Opposition parties managed to garner on the issue could be an indication that NCP leader and Agriculture Minster Sharad Pawar, and his nephew State Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, may be losing political ground in their bastion.
Various political and social groups are aggressively campaigning against Sharad Pawar’s NCP in the region which was never the case earlier. These groups are mainly getting support from farmers fighting for either more water or fighting against land acquisition. This will make land acquisition in the region very difficult.
Pune district police chief Sandeep Karnik had claimed that his men fired at angry farmers on Tuesday because farmers had blocked the Mumbai-Pune expressway for hours and the mob had turned violent. But news television footage revealed that police also fired at crowds running away from the scene.
This has annoyed the local population tremendously. Opposition parties Shiv Sena and BJP have taken up the issue in the state Assembly and at ‘ground zero.’ Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray visited Mawal tehsil of Pune district on Thursday and met families of farmers who lost their lives.
Shiv Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, who was there with Uddhav, said Thackeray received support of locals who shouted slogans against the Pawars, which surprised even NCP leaders. This kind of unrest has never happened in Deputy CM Ajit Pawar’s territory.
Speaking to ET, Ulka Mahajan, the Convener of National Alliance of People’s Movement, claimed farmers have only shown that now they have the courage to challenge suppression.
The government has not fulfilled any promises given when land was acquired earlier for dams or for various projects. Now, farmers know that if they don’t resist the process of acquisition, they will be finished. NAPM has been mobilising farmers in various parts of Maharashtra against forceful land acquisition.
Mahajan claimed farmers were disillusioned with politicians and are no more scared of them. She said water from 38 dams has been diverted to cities and all these dams were built by acquiring land under cultivation. The feeling among local farmers is that despite holding the agriculture portfolio, Sharad Pawar has not done anything for them.
What surprises many is the way over 2,000 farmers from Mawal area blocked both, the expressway and National Highway 4. This region was believed to be a stronghold of Ajit Pawar and his trusted supporters though they face some challenge from Shiv Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil.
NCP MLA Shashikant Shinde claimed that farmers had been taken into confidence about the project and they will be given compensation for the land acquired and a job for one member of the family in the Pimpari Chinchwad Municipal Corporation to where the water from Pawna dam is being diverted through the water pipeline.
He claimed this development is meant for not political leaders but people themselves and farmers should have a wider view. Shiv Sena MLA Vijay Shivthare from Saswad constituency of Pune district alleged that farmers are angry because they have been cheated several times before by the government.
No compensation has been paid to them. Not just government projects, but various commercial and industrial projects were set up in the region, where the government was involved in land acquisition but farmers have not gained, he claimed.
In the last Assembly session the Opposition alleged that Sharad Pawar’s daughter and Member of Parliament Supriya Sule owned several acres on the outskirts of Pune in partnership with 2G accused Shahid Balwa’s DB Realty. Economic Times