Maharashtra: Anguished By BJP Govt Corruption And Injustice, Farmer Committed Suicide. Come August, No Justice Despite Lapse Of Deadline.
The government ordered the judicial probe on April 6.
In January this year, an 80-year old farmer, Dharma Patil, committed suicide by consuming poison in front of the Mantralaya in Mumbai because he received inadequate compensation for his land acquired by the Maharashtra government. The incident rocked the state, following which the government set up an inquiry to probe Patil’s suicide. Although the deadline has lapsed, the report is yet to be submitted.
The government ordered the judicial probe on April 6 – over two months after the suicide – under retired principal judge Shyam Darne, at a monthly remuneration of Rs 2 lakh. The Government Resolution stated that the report would be submitted in three months.
When the July 6 deadline passed, the committee asked for an extension. The state accepted and extended the deadline to August 5. However, the report is unlikely to be submitted before September.
The Government Resolution on the extension notes that the committee asked for an extension because the “work did not begin on time for some reasons”.
In Dhule district’s Mauje Vikharan village, where Dharma Patil used to reside, the state government had acquired around 1,000 hectares of farmland in 2009 for a power plant of MahaGenco, an electricity board company. The committee is also supposed to probe into the allegations of corruption in the acquisition and whether the compensation extended to the farmers in the rest of the village was fair.
On August 14, Maharashtra Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule said that the report is “ready in a sealed box, and likely to be submitted in 15 days or so”. Bawankule explained that the government has no intention of delaying the probe. “We believe in transparency,” he said. “The committee asked for an extension. The report will be out soon.”
Maharashtra government had acquired five hectares of land belonging to Dharma Patil. “We had 650 mango trees, a well, a borewell, and the pipeline of drip irrigation,” said Narendra Patil, Dharma’s son. “Our compensation came up to Rs 403,000. The neighbouring farmland had 850 pomegranate trees, and they got Rs 1,890,000 as compensation. Another farmer got around 4 crores for the land that was adjacent to ours. Is this fair?”
Narendra said they paid the price for taking the legal route instead of engaging with agents. “Agents are in cahoots with local officers and administrators here,” he said. “We said we will go by legal means, and paid the price for it. This is how the system functions.”
The power plant project dates back to 2009. Narendra said the authorities had been evaluating the land, but they spoke about money only in 2016.
Dharma Patil had been running from pillar to post since then. He wrote letters to the concerned authorities, including the district collector and even the Chief Minister. “From village accountant to the Chief Minister,” said Narendra. “We wrote to everyone.”
In the first week of December 2017, Dharma Patil submitted a letter to the commissioner’s office in Nasik, clearly stating that he would commit suicide if the government did not respond. The letter fell on deaf ears. On January 22, he drank poison in front of the Mantralaya. He was rushed to the hospital but succumbed six days later, on January 28.
The Son’s Struggle
In the process of seeking justice for his father, Narendra’s own business has suffered. “I run a medical store in Surat,” he said. “Surat is 150 kilometers from my village. But it has been neglected in the past eight months. My wife looks after it, but on and off. We have to spend more time in Maharashtra to follow up the case,” he added.
Narendra asserted that the government is purposely delaying the matter. “I had met Bawankule in March and he said I will ensure justice in one month,” he said. “Then, in April, he told the assembly that the report will be out in three months. It has been eight months now. I am still waiting.”
On June 13, the Patil family approached the Dondaicha police station and named 13 people in their complaint against the alleged corruption. The first 10 names are of those working in the administration, two people are MahaGenco company officials, and the last one is the alleged agent. “The police has returned the complaint with the received stamp,” Narendra said. “But they have not yet filed an FIR. It has been eight months, but not even a peon has been arrested. That is how powerful, and closely knit the network is.”
In February, the state government had deposited Rs 4,800,000 in Narendra’s account, but he rejected it. “I do not want alms,” he said. “I am not interested in their charity. I want justice. We have not done the last rites of my father yet, and will not do it until I get justice. Let them evaluate my land systematically and arrive at a fair amount.”