Karela Fry

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The 64th year of independence

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The brutality of the attack by the police is hardly captured in newspaper reports. HT reported:

Questions are being raised over the death of Moreshwar Sathe, 45, a farmer, and Shyam Tupe, 25, a driver, who were among the hundreds who blocked the expressway at Bour, 128 km from Mumbai, on Tuesday. The third person who died in the police firing was Kanta Thakar, 40.

They were protesting against a water tunnel project, which they feared would divert their water and force them to give up land.

More background from the Hindu:

The farmers were protesting against diversion of water from the Pawna dam through a pipeline to the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC).The government initially defended the police action but when television channels aired footage of the August 9 protest, it had no choice but to suspend at least eight policemen, who were seen attacking private vehicles or firing at the fleeing farmers. Mr. Chavan said a high-level inquiry by a retired Bombay High Court judge was ordered and that was the maximum the government could do.

The deputy chief minister and “guardian minister” for Pune, Ajit Pawar, has some role in this problem, although it is not clearly spelled out by the media. IE reports:

An announcement by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday that 3 TMC [TMC = thousand million cubic feet = 28.3 billion liters] of water would be available for Maval region throughout the year and not 1 TMC as they believe, did not bring any cheer to farmers opposing a pipeline project from Pavana Dam to Pimpri-Chinchwad.

“3 TMC will irrigate 30,000 acres, much more than the 15,000 acres under irrigation in Maval. People will get enough water for irrigation and drinking purposes,” he said on Sunday.

“He is trying to fool us to get the pipeline work through. We won’t allow this. We will shed blood for water…,” said Balasaheb Pingle, secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, who met Chief Minister Prithivraj Chavan, who visited Maval on Sunday, and conveyed the anger of farmers to him.

The Hindu reports how the Maharashtra Government has been diverting water from farming and irrigation to industry:

Mr. Ajit Pawar has, however, washed his hands of the issue, saying the project to bring water to Pimpri-Chinchwad was discussed with the locals and it even had the support of the local Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena leaders. He said the government had gone out of its way to give farmers compensation, which the farmers are contesting. He put the ball in the BJP’s court by accusing it of instigating violence and giving him a bad name.

The government is answerable for the repeated firing incidents and the Mawal incident, whatever the provocation, has been widely condemned. If the government knew beforehand that there was bound to be violence, the question arises: why was it not prevented? The incident also raises the larger question of land acquisition, taking people into confidence before implementing a project and providing adequate compensation. The farmers at Mawal have repeatedly been subjected to land acquisition first for the Mumbai-Pune expressway, the Pawna dam and now for the water pipeline.

Bharat Patankar of the Lokabhimukh Pani Dhoran Sangharsha Manch, a coalition of NGOs, says the government failed to implement promises made to the people whose land was acquired for the dam. They were promised jobs in the PCMC but the offer has not materialised. Water had been diverted but the farmers had little assurance that they would get supply for agriculture.

The larger issue of water use in the State is not debated. In August last year, Dr. Patankar led a Statewide agitation to protest against the government’s amendment to the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act, which sought to legalise diversion of 53 tmc (thousand million cubic feet) to industries, remove the provision of public hearings for projects and take away the principle of equitable distribution of water for drinking, agriculture and industry. Though the Chief Minister later declared that the State would give priority to drinking water and agriculture, this promise was not reflected in the Act. Farmers fear that priority will be given to drinking water at the cost of agriculture.


2 Responses

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  1. […] industry. Governments, over the years, used tax money to create massive irrigation projects, whose benefits would now go to the industry either directly or as a result of land transfer. Since the demands of industry and agriculture had […]

  2. […] groupings. Governments, over the years, used tax money to create massive irrigation projects, whose benefits would now go to the industry either directly or as a result of land […]

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