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CM uses management skills to convince tribals to withdraw agitation

Tuesday, March 13, 2018
By Prashant Hamine. Photographs by Azad Shrivastav

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis used his management skills to the hilt in convincing the agitating tribal farmers into withdrawing their agitation for implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006, promising one-and-half times more minimum assured price for farm produce, complete loan waiver and other demands.

The government gave a written assurance to the delegation of the Kisan Sabha that it will resolve the issue of implementing the provisions of the Forest Rights Act within six months and also decide on granting ownership rights of Forest Patches to the tribals cultivating them. Minister for Revenue Chandrakant Patil later read out the charter of demands accepted by the government before the agitating farmers camping at Azad Maidan yesterday.

However, opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders remarked that the talks between the government and the agitating farmers led by the Left leaning Kisan Sabha was a “fixed match”. Leader of Opposition in Legislative Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil (Congress) later while speaking to news persons at Vidhan Bhavan disclosed that leaders of opposition were made to sit out in the conference room at the Chief Ministers Office in Vidhan Bhavan while the Kisan Sabha leaders Dr Ajit Nawale, Dr Ashok Dhawale and others were closeted in a meeting with the chief minister in his ante-chamber. He added that by the time the Congress, NCP opposition leaders were called in it appeared that the Kisan Sabha delegation was convinced of the assurance given by the government.

Speaking to reporters earlier, Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde stated that while the Kisan Sabha leaders may have been convinced of the assurances given by the government, the Congress, NCP led opposition was far from convinced.

Later, speaking to media persons at Vidhan Bhavan, Minister for Tribal Welfare Vishnu Savara stated that the government has already implemented 50 per cent of the claims made by the tribals as per the provisions of the Forest Rights Act. He said that the rest of the claims pending since 2006 will be settled within six months. State Chief Secretary will take review after two months on settlement of all such pending claims. On the issue of giving ownership rights of Forest Patches to tribals cultivating them, he said that the issue shall be resolved within two months.

Sources while speaking on conditions of anonymity disclosed that on the issue of pending forest rights claims, the chief minister assured the delegation that the issue shall be resolved within six months. All the claims termed invalid shall be reexamined and a special team shall be set up to decide on such contentious claims. Fadnavis assured that the government shall within six months take positive decision on giving grants under the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana and Shravanbal Yojana for which committees will be set up within 15 days. On the issue of one-and-half time more minimum assured price to farm produce, the chief minister stated that the issue falls in the domain of the Centre. In respect of the demand for complete loan waiver, Fadnavis stated that 80 per cent of the farmers have received the benefit of the loan waiver. He assured that the government will do something for those who have been left out of the loan waiver scheme.

At the same time, some MLA's have claimed that under pressure from the opposition and ally Shiv Sena, the BJP-led government accepted the demands of agitating farmers, including their right to till forest land. Several political parties like the Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have extended their support to the protesting farmers and as a result the government was forced to show the willingness to sit across the table for the negotiations.

Many leaders virtually lambasted the Fadnavis government for its dilly-dallying approach towards the agrarian community. Former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and social crusader Anna Hazare on Monday strongly criticised the ruling BJP at the Centre and in the state for letting down the farmers.

Speaking to reporters, Pawar said, “Why could the state government not depute a team to Nashik to discuss the grievances of the farmers and resolve it? It's four years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, but the promises of minimum support price for farm produce has not been implemented”.

Anna Hazare said that why over 30,000 farmers were compelled to march nearly 200 kmin a scorching heat from Nashik to Mumbai for six days if the government was serious about accepting their demands. This approach has underscored the apathy of the government.

Significantly, the famed dabbawalas of Mumbai and the city residents came out to help the thousands of farmers, who walked for six days to reach Mumbai from Nashik, by providing them food and water. The farmers walked up to the Azad Maidan early Monday morning as a part of their long march, they were given refreshments. Subhash Talekar, the spokesperson of Mumbai Dabbawala Association, said, “We thought about helping the farmers with food as they are our Annadata (food-providers) and have come from remote parts of the state. We asked our men working between Dadar and Colaba to collect food and deliver it to our farmer brothers at the Azad Maidan”.

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