The Economic Times | 1 week ago | 18-03-2023 | 10:44 pm
Mumbai: Protesting farmers and tribals, who were on their way to Mumbai from Nashik district of Maharashtra, called off their long march on Saturday after an assurance from the government to fulfil their demands and execute related orders. With red flags in their hands, the march had started on foot from Dindori town, located around 195 km away from Mumbai, on March 12 demanding relief of Rs 600 per quintal to onion growers hit by price crash, twelve-hour uninterrupted power supply to farmers, and waiver of farm loans. They had reached Thane district's Vasind town, around 80 km from Mumbai.On Friday, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde told the Assembly that onion cultivators will be given a financial relief of Rs 350 a quintal and appealed to them to call off the protest."Our demands have been met. All the demands by the farmers were taken into consideration in the state legislature and collectors and tehsildars have been issued orders. We received calls from our activists that work (implementation of the government order) has begun. So we have decided to call off the march," Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA Vinod Nikole said.He said the participants have started heading back to their homes, and the remaining people will leave by Saturday evening or Sunday.A 58-year-old participant in the long march died on Friday.The deceased Pundalik Ambo Jadhav was a resident of a village near Dindori in Nashik. "After having dinner around 8 pm, Jadhav vomited and again started feeling uneasy. He was rushed to the Shahapur hospital where doctors declared him brought dead," an official said on Saturday.The Maharashtra government had on Friday accepted most of the demands of farmers.CM Shinde, Deputy Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, ministers and top government officials had held talks with the farmers' representatives to resolve the issue on Thursday. Shinde had also informed the House that he had held discussions with a farmers' delegation on 14 points, including forest rights, encroachment of forest land, transfer of land belonging to temple trusts and grazing grounds to cultivators for farming.He had said a cabinet sub-committee will be set up to monitor appeals and claims related to the demand for forest land up to four hectares in possession of cultivators. The panel will prepare a report in a month.The committee will monitor the pending claims of farmers under the Forest Rights Act, the chief minister said, adding former MLA Jeeva Pandu Gavit and legislator Vinod Nikole, both belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), will be members of the committee. Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) which spearheaded the 'long march' protest claimed that among other demands, the state government has agreed to waive loans of more than 88,000 farmers who didn't benefit from earlier such schemes. The AIKS has received a copy of the orders issued by the government to the concerned authorities, it said and hailed farmers for participating in the protest. "The AIKS-led Kisan long march in 2018 had caught the imagination of people and had instilled confidence in all democratic sections by forcing the then BJP-led state government to accept almost all demands," it said. The AIKS further said that in 2023, poor farmers, a large number of them adivasis, with women leading from the front, have forced the BJP-Shiv Sena (faction led by Eknath Shinde) government to bow down and accept our demands. "This victory will inspire militant struggles against the anti-people BJP government and its pro-corporate policies. Coming just a fortnight before the Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh rally at Delhi, it will also inspire the working class and the peasantry to come out in big numbers in all the forthcoming struggles," it said.Meanwhile, Thane district collector Ashok Shingare on Saturday visited the site where the protesting farmers were camping at Vasind village and handed them a letter on behalf of the government of having met all their demands.An official release said special arrangements were made for halting the express and other trains at Vasind railway station to enable the participants of the long march to travel to their homes, the release added.
The Shiv Sena (UBT), which had warned Congress leader Rahul Gandhi against “insulting” Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar, said on Wednesday that the issue has been resolved and they were “firmly united” with the Opposition parties in their fight against the BJP and the Narendra Modi government.“The issue has ended for us…The matter has been resolved,” MP Sanjay Raut, Uddhav Thackeray’s close confidant, told The Indian Express. “I have spoken to Rahul Gandhi about the issue,” he added.In his speech in Malegaon on Sunday, Uddhav Thackeray had warned Rahul Gandhi that the Sena (UBT) would not tolerate any insult to Savarkar. “Savarkar is our deity…we will not tolerate any insult to him,” Thackeray had said.Asked whether Gandhi had promised not to raise the Savarkar issue again, Raut said, “We do not want to speak about it anymore. As I have said, the matter has been resolved.”When asked what the party’s stand would be if Gandhi raises the issue again, Raut said, “If Rahul Gandhi raises the issue again, we will see what to do… But we are confident he will not raise the issue.”Raut said the Shiv Sena (UBT) will be attending the meetings convened by the Opposition or the Congress. The Sena had on Monday night skipped a meeting convened by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. “We are firmly united with the Opposition to save democracy and dislodge the BJP from power,” Raut said.On Tuesday, Congress communication head Jairam Ramesh said 19 parties were saying in one voice that democracy was in danger and “we have to unitedly face and fight the dictatorial government”. The Shiv Sena (UBT), he said, was one of the 19 parties.“There were 18 parties last night. Today, I have said 19. The number will go up from 18 to 19 when Shiv Sena is part of the group,” Ramesh said at a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday. To this, Raut said, “We are with the Congress and the Opposition…We will be attending all their meetings.”
With Karnataka polls just around the corner, a video showing state Congress president DK Shivakumar showering currency notes on crowds during a roadshow has stirred a row.In the video, Shivakumar, during the ‘Praja Dhwani Yatra’ organised by the Congress in Bevinahalli in the Mandya district Tuesday, was seen flinging Rs 500 notes from the rooftop of a bus.#WATCH | Karnataka Congress Chief DK Shivakumar was seen throwing Rs 500 currency notes on the artists near Bevinahalli in Mandya district during the ‘Praja Dhwani Yatra’ organized by Congress in Srirangapatna. (28.03) pic.twitter.com/aF2Lf0pksi— ANI (@ANI) March 29, 2023Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai hit out at Congress, accusing the party of resorting to different tactics to garner votes. Slamming Shivakumar, Bommai said, “He (DK Shivakumar) does everything and blatantly uses all kinds of power. Congress thinks that the people (of Karnataka) are beggars but the people will teach them. People are the real owners,” news agency ANI reported.Bommai has also accused the state Congress chief of luring BJP MLAs by offering them tickets in constituencies where the party is yet to announce its candidates.“KPCC President D K Shivakumar since the last two to three days has been making phone calls to our MLAs in 100 constituencies where they are yet to announce candidates. He is stating that if you (BJP MLAs) come (to Congress) we will give you the ticket,” Bommai was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.Shivakumar is set to contest from his traditional seat of Kanakapura, according to the Congress’s first list of 124 candidates. The party is yet to announce tickets for 100 seats in the 224-seat Assembly.
Kolkata is set to witness parallel protests by the Trinamool Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress on Wednesday.While the TMC is protesting against the Centre’s “discriminatory attitude” against the state, the BJP is holding a day-long sit-in to protest against alleged corruption by the state government. The Congress in the state, meanwhile, will continue its protest against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from Lok Sabha.Here is everything you need to know:West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday began her two-day sit-in demonstration in Kolkata against the BJP-led Central government’s alleged “discriminatory attitude” towards the state. Banerjee will begin the dharna in front of the B R Ambedkar statue at Esplanade in Kolkata, which will go on till March 30.#WATCH | West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee sits on two days Dharna in Kolkata, starting from today against the Central government for not clearing funds for several schemes including 100 days work. pic.twitter.com/tfI45NFZ1u— ANI (@ANI) March 29, 2023The chief minister alleged that the Centre had not released funds for the MGNREGA project for the state and other initiatives of its housing and road departments. On Tuesday, she said, “The Centre has stopped releasing funds for MGNREGA and Indira Awas Yojana (Grameen). Besides, it has also stopped scholarships for OBC students”.While launching the ‘Pathashree-Rastashree’ scheme ahead of panchayat elections due later this year, Banerjee had said the expenditure for constructing the rural roads would be borne by the state and not the central government.“The Centre has not released over Rs 7,000 crores pending under the MGNREGA scheme and has not given work to our people despite West Bengal topping the list of states in completing the work under the initiative… We believe jealousy or politics may be the reason behind this,” she said.Coinciding with this, Trinamool Congress MPs are holding a protest in Parliament against the Centre in solidarity with Banerjee.Simultaneously, TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee will address a rally against the “anti-people” policy of the Centre and its “stepmotherly attitude” towards the West Bengal government. The stir was to “save” democracy, federalism, Constitution and the Parliament, news agency PTI reported.In a rare display of unity, TMC MPs had a few days ago, attended a meeting of Opposition parties called by Congress president and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, and also participated in the protest against Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha disqualification. State Congress workers too will also continue its protest against the same issue.Meanwhile, the West Bengal BJP will also stage a protest in Kolkata, with its leaders holding a daylong sit-in against the ruling state government over “corruption allegations” at Shyambazar today. The party had on Tuesday protested in Kolkata alleging that the TMC government in the state was not doing enough to mitigate the losses being faced by potato farmers due to bumper harvest this year. Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari led a rally from College Square to Rani Rashmoni Road over the issue.— With agency inputs
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal filed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seeking the quashing of a criminal complaint filed by a BJP member alleging that she disrespected the national anthem at a public function in Mumbai in December 2021.Banerjee was challenging a sessions court order from January this year which directed a magistrate court to conduct a fresh hearing on the matter even as it set aside the summons issued against her.She contended that the sessions court should have quashed the proceedings altogether.A single-judge high court bench of Justice Amit Borkar held that “the course adopted by the sessions judge of not deciding the complaint on merits and remitting the matter back to the magistrate was in consonance with the order of the Supreme Court”.“In my opinion, there is neither an error of jurisdiction nor patent illegality in the present case. The criminal appeal is dismissed,” Justice Borkar said.On Tuesday (March 28), Banerjee’s lawyer argued that the summons had been quashed by the sessions court and the matter ought to be heard afresh. The ingredients of the main offence had not been made out for the issuing process (initiating proceedings), the lawyer argued.“The magistrate did not have the audacity to read the legal provisions and same caused grave injustice to a public servant,” Banerjee’s lawyer argued.On March 21, Banerjee’s lawyer Majeed Memon submitted before the magistrate court and sought an adjournment on the proceedings, stating that she had approached the High Court. The court, however, rejected the adjournment application and posted the case for a hearing on March 29.The magistrate court, in February 2022, observed that it was prima facie evident that Banerjee had sung the National Anthem at an event in Mumbai, stopped abruptly and left the dais, committing an offence under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. It had then issued her summons, asking her to appear before it in March 2022. This order was set aside by the special court.The special court had said that the magistrate court did not follow mandatory provisions of law in its order and directed it to decide on the issue of summons afresh.It had said the subordinate court must start the whole proceedings again from the stage of verification of the complainant’s statement, which Banerjee challenged in the high court.
EVEN in West Bengal where political leaders have been jumping sides with rapid frequency to stay on the right side, this was an unusual development. Last week, a leader of the Trinamool Congress from North Bengal, Udayan Guha, came out against his own father Kamal Guha, saying that as a Forward Bloc leader and minister, the latter too “gave many jobs illegally”.Udayan, who joined the TMC before the 2016 Assembly elections, said: “He (his father) also committed corruption for the sake of the party.”The amount may not have been much, Udayan was quick to specify, but it was still corruption. “If you take Rs 5, it is not corruption, but if you take Rs 50,000 or Rs 5 lakh, that is corruption? It can’t be like that… My father also employed many people.”Trapped in a corner over mounting corruption allegations against her government, particularly over the job recruitment scam that hits the people where it hurts, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee appeared to pull this card out of her sleeve.And it’s not the only one. As the clock starts ticking for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Mamata is employing several tactics, from targeted wooing of her Muslim support base to fighting the corruption taint to rolling out more schemes. In 2019, the BJP had stunned the TMC by winning 18 Lok Sabha seats in the state where it was not too long ago a nobody, and the TMC knows it can leave no chinks in its armour.The re-focus on the CPI(M) as the target of its attack is also calculated, as it plays down the significance of the BJP (which has lost many of its leaders to the TMC). Plus, the TMC is still reeling from losing its Muslim-dominated stronghold of Sagardighi in a recent bypoll to a Congress candidate, backed by the CPI(M).Over the weekend, in a little-noticed but worrying sign for the TMC, the Congress and CPI(M) swept all 19 seats in a closely fought battle for the Haldia docks management committee, in Purba Medinipur district. The TMC had won all but 1 seat last time, and had held control of the committee for 13 years.The corruption battleThe 2021 Assembly poll win had been a commendable achievement for the Mamata-led TMC, bringing it to power for the third time in the state against an ascendant and aggressive BJP. However, within a year, the blows started.It began with then Industry Minister and Mamata aide, Partha Chatterjee, being arrested by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) along with his confidante Arpita Mukherjee. The case struck headlines for successive days as more than Rs 50 crore in cash turned up at Mukherjee’s flats.Hardly had this furore died down that another top TMC leader, Anubrata Mondol, along with his bodyguard Saigal Hossain, was arrested in a cattle-smuggling case. Then came the school job scam, in which many officials of the school education department and TMC leaders were arrested.Against this backdrop came Udayan Guha’s charges against the Left regime that preceded the TMC’s – a surprising turn of direction given that it has been more than a decade since the Left Front lost power and the TMC has brought this up now.After naming his father as among those who gave out jobs as quid pro quo, Udayan shared documents which he claimed show how close relatives of CPI(M) leaders got employment in government sectors without proper recruitment examinations. He named the wife of CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty, Mili, who was employed by a government college in 1987 and worked there for 34 years before retirement, and relatives of former CPI(M) minister Sushanta Ghosh as among them.“A HORRIFIC example of deceiving the public!” tweeted Udayan.Chakraborty fired back telling Udayan to submit proof if he had any. “We are ready to face an investigation. If he does not have any proof, the TMC must apologise at an open forum.”The minority voteThe bypoll to Murshidabad’s Sagardighi seat – which had been held by the TMC since 2011 — was necessitated by the death of sitting TMC MLA Subrata Saha. Stunning the ruling party, the Congress’s Bayron Biswas won the bypoll, defeating the TMC’s Debasish Banerjee by 22,986 votes. Apart from the Left Front, Biswas was backed by the ISF, or Islamic Secular Front, a rising Muslim outfit that the TMC sees as a challenger for Muslim votes.In the postmortem done after the result, the TMC is said to have zeroed in on minority votes shifting to the Left-Congress, the corruption taint attached to it, and a decline in Mamata’s popularity as among the reasons.Sagardighi was also bad news coming so close to the panchayat polls, expected to be announced anytime soon in Bengal, given the fluid party loyalties at the grassroots level.While Mamata publicly asserted that “minorities are with us, like before”, a series of steps since indicate that this confidence is shaken.Firstly, the faces in the committee set up by the TMC to introspect on the defeat in Sagardighi. It included ministers Siddiqullah Chowdhury, Sabina Yasmin, Akhrujjaman and Jakir Hossain. Chowdhury was also given the responsibility of Malda, Murshidabad and South Dinajpur districts, along with Yasmin.Chowdhury used to be a leader of the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind, an organisation with a strong base among Bengali-speaking Muslims of West Bengal.Alongside this, Firhad Hakim or Bobby Hakim, identified with the Urdu-speaking Muslim population of the state, saw his wings being clipped. Previously, it was Hakim who looked after the TMC organisation in Murshidabad, along with Howrah and Hoogly.The president of the TMC’s Bengal minority cell, MLA Haroa Haji Nurul, was replaced next, with another young Muslim leader, Mosaraf Hossain, the MLA of Itahar.On Monday, in yet another change, Md Ghulam Rabbani was removed from the state’s Minority Affairs Department, and moved to Horticulture. Mamata herself has taken charge of the Minority Affairs Department for now.Simultaneously, the Mamata government announced the creation of separate development boards for minorities and migrant labour. A senior Cabinet minister said, “Earlier, there was a finance corporation for minorities. Mamata Banerjee has now decided to create a Minority Development Board and a Migrant Labour Development Board.”The new schemes, financial situationAlthough the TMC government has been able to increase revenue collection in 2022-23, the state’s revenue deficit has increased to nearly Rs 7,000 crore. Simultaneously, according to the Budget proposals placed by Minister of State, Finance, Chandrima Bhattacharya in the Assembly Wednesday, the state’s outstanding debt will rise to about Rs 6.5 lakh crore by the end of the 2023-24 fiscal.The Mamata government has several popular welfare measures such as Lakshmi Bhandar, Kanyasree, Rupasree, Sabuj Sathi which require huge outflows. The Lakshmi Bhandar programme alone needs more than Rs 20,000 crore per year.Recently, state government employees held a strike – the first under the TMC tenure – demanding a hike in dearness allowance.Mamata has accused the Centre of not paying Rs 1 lakh crore as its dues, including for wages of MNREGA. On Tuesday, she said it had been a mistake on Bengal’s part to join the GST, given the outstanding money to the state. From Tuesday, she is sitting on dharna at Kolkata Esplanade for two days over the issue.A nervous partyA section of the TMC leaders admit they are not too sure if these measures will achieve their objective. A senior TMC leader said: “Everybody knows that the CPI(M) gave jobs to party workers when in power. Congress leader Ghani Khan Choudhury, our leader Mamata Banerjee, and Mukul Roy also gave jobs when they were Rail Ministers at the Centre… But they did not give jobs taking money from aspirants; that is corruption.”The leader fears that the TMC might face counter-questions such as, if it knew about these corruption allegations against the Left government, why had these not been investigated in the last 10 years. “And lastly, just because they were corrupt, does it mean we have the permission to be corrupt ourselves?”CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “This strategy will not work anymore, as the credibility of Mamata Banerjee is finished and she cannot fool the people further.”BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya said, “The TMC is now trying to project the CPI(M) as the Opposition. But, the people already know who the Opposition is.”He added that even the TMC’s bid to regain Muslim confidence won’t work. “We are also reaching out to them, telling them that in Mamata Banerjee’s regime, most people belonging to minority groups have been killed, and the areas inhabited by them have remained undeveloped.”With the TMC projecting the BJP as an “outsider”, Bhattacharya insisted: “Our DNA and heritage are the same, and they (the Muslims) should march with us for the development of the whole Bengal.”