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Ahmednagar sees deaths of 30 leopards in 9 months

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Pointing to their habitat coming under stress, a total of 30 leopards have lost their lives in nine months in Ahmednagar district alone. In a written reply to a question by the Shiv Sena’s Vijayrao Auti in the state legislative assembly on Friday, Minance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is also Maharashtra’s Forest Minister, said that between January to September 2016, a total of 30 leopards had died in Ahmednagar district. Of these 30, 12 were natural while seven fell into wells and died and five leopards died in accidents. Six of these big cats also perished in territorial fights. In his reply, Mungantiwar said that structures like forest lakes, cement bunds, forest bunds and water holes were conducted under various schemes in the district. This will make water available for wild animals in forested areas.Flex boards have been erected on sides of roads and turnings to prevent the accidental deaths of leopards. Two rescue teams each have been created in Ahmednagar and Sangamner divisions and the staff has been given special training.

Maharashtra: Police arrests 36 for attacking Dalit houses after murder of girl

Mumbai: Police in Satara district of western Maharashtra have arrested 36 persons for attacking a Dalit locality following the murder of a girl belonging to the upper-caste Maratha community.

The accused, angry over the killing of the girl last month, targeted the houses and vehicles of Dalits on the outskirts of Korale Khurd village on Tuesday night, police said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

In July, the rape and murder of a Maratha girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district had sparked off state-wide protests and mobilisation of Marathas.

Tuesday’s incident at Korale Khurd followed the murder of 21-year-old Aruna Mohite, allegedly by her estranged lover Siddharth Dhanane (24), a Dalit, police said.

They were in a relationship for the last few years but her parents forcibly married her off to another person, according to the police.

Dhanane asked her meet him at Thoseghar on 30 November.

During an argument, he allegedly hit her with a stick, killing her on the spot. He then buried the body to destroy evidence, police said.

After a missing persons case was lodged, police found that she was in contact with Dhanane on phone, and questioned him. He allegedly confessed and took the police to the buried body.

Late last night, several members of Maratha community attacked homes of Dalits on the outskirts of the village and torched their vehicles, police said.

Stones were pelted at the houses, window panes of 18 houses were broken and 13 vehicles including three cars were damaged, police said.

“We have arrested 36 persons. We also held meetings of leaders from both communities,” said Sandeep Patil, Superintendent of Police, Satara, speaking to PTI.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 22:18 IST

Note ban: Agriculture market in Maharashtra crumbles after demonetisation

By Abhishek Waghmare,

A week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes – 86 percent of India’s currency notes by value – business in the agricultural market of Pathardi, 350 km east of Mumbai, fell by 60 percent, indicating how the rural economy of India’s richest state, Maharashtra, recovering from two years of drought, is slowing down.

Pathardi’s Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), representative of 2,500 such markets in India, is where most agricultural trade in the region takes place–almost all of it in cash. A slowdown in these markets can have wide-ranging effects on farmers, traders and the Indian agricultural economy.

The agricultural market at Pathardi, in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, is where most agricultural trade in the region takes place. Market registers showed that arrival of vehicles loaded with agricultural produce fell by 75%, cotton by 80%, and the sale of cattle fell by 50%, in comparison to the week before the ban of notes. Image courtesy: IndiaSpendThe agricultural market at Pathardi, in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, is where most agricultural trade in the region takes place. Market registers showed that arrival of vehicles loaded with agricultural produce fell by 75%, cotton by 80%, and the sale of cattle fell by 50%, in comparison to the week before the ban of notes. Image courtesy: IndiaSpend

The agricultural market at Pathardi, in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, is where most agricultural trade in the region takes place. Market registers showed that arrival of vehicles loaded with agricultural produce fell by 75%, cotton by 80%, and the sale of cattle fell by 50%, in comparison to the week before the ban of notes. Image courtesy: IndiaSpend

The arrival of vehicles loaded with agricultural produce entering the Pathardi market fell by 75 percent, arrival of cotton dropped by 80 percent, and the sale of cattle fell by 50 percent, in comparison to the week before the ban of notes, according to data gathered by IndiaSpend from market officials.

Source: Pathardi Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee, Ahmednagar

To get Rs 100 notes, a farmer sacrifices 15 percent income

The ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes has pushed farmers – who transact in cash and are still largely distanced from formal banking institutions – out of the farm economy.

Bhimsen Mahadev Ghuge, a 50-year-old cotton farmer, lost 15 percent on a cotton transaction. He did not want the money in old notes, so he sold his produce to an unregistered trader outside the APMC market gate for Rs 4,200 per quintal, lower than the market rate of Rs 5,000 per quintal.

“I have to manage my family expenses and pay the wages of labourers who work in my farm in Rs 100 notes,” Ghuge said. “I have incurred a huge loss this season.”

Traders at the Pathardi market were willing to pay for produce and cattle in old notes or, new notes of Rs 2,000. But farmers, whose daily expenses are much lower, are unwilling to take Rs 2,000 notes, unsure of whether they would be able to change it for more usable notes of smaller denominations.

Farmers said they did not want old notes because they were uncertain they would be able to exchange the notes for new currency.

“Initially, some farmers accepted the old notes confident they could deposit the money in the bank. But few farmers continued to accept the old notes after 21 November,” Vaibhav Dahiphale, director of the Pathardi APMC, told IndiaSpend. Still, traders continued to transact in old cash and as a result several have had to shut shop, said Dahiphale.

Note Ban Reduced Cotton Sales

Cotton reaches the market in November, and APMC officials expected daily transactions to reach Rs 50 lakh ($77,000) because of a good harvest this year, Dahiphale told IndiaSpend. But, after demonetisation, transactions amounted to a maximum of Rs 30 lakh ($46,000) a day, based on data collected from the market.

Some traders, such as those buying cotton, have shut shop to protest against the unavailability of cash in the market, and blamed the government for not ensuring enough cash.

If there is no cash, why can’t traders pay farmers by cheque?

Traders in Pathardi APMC do not prefer cheque as a mode of payment to farmers, IndiaSpend found, as they keep most of their money in the form of cash.

Farmers too feared that cheques might not translate into money in their bank accounts. “I am not sure I will receive money after I deposit the cheque. The cheque might bounce,” said Ghuge.

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First Published On : Nov 26, 2016 17:49 IST

Marathas hold massive ‘warm up’ bike rally in Mumbai

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Taking their agitation to the state capital, the Maratha community held a “warm up” bike rally protest on Sunday in the city to press for their various demands, ahead of their December morcha planned in Nagpur during the winter session of the state Legislature. Rajan Ghag, one of the event organisers, claimed that over 50,000 bikes participated in the rally, which commenced from KJ Somaiya ground in Sion at 10.00 am and culminated near Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station after passing through Matunga, Dadar, Parel, Lalbaug and Byculla areas. “More than 50,000 bikes participated in our rally which would have made it amply clear to the government that the community is in no mood to rest till all their demands are met by the government,” Ghag told PTI. He said this was a “warm up” rally to convey to the government that it would have to face the biggest show of strength when the winter session of the state Legislature will be held next month in Nagpur.”There will be a ‘maha morcha’ held in Mumbai if the government fails to agree to our demands in the Legislature session where people from the farthest of zillas will participate,” he said. “In today’s ‘Janjagruti’ rally, we had formulated a code of conduct for each participant, who had to follow them very strictly. Among the rules set were that every rider wears a helmet and the pillion rider had to wear a turban. Also, all were instructed to strictly refrain from honking and not to jump signals,” he said. Meanwhile, Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP Ashok Dudhe said the rally was held peacefully and that all rules and regulations were followed.The Maratha community, which is a dominant force in Maharashtra politics, has been taking out silent marches in various towns of the state since last few months, following the rape and murder of a girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district in July. The community leaders have been pressing for scrapping of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, saying it is grossly misused, and have also raised other demands like quota in education and jobs.

Atrocities an excuse; reservation the key issue in rally war between Marathas and Dalits

Over two lakh Dalits participated in a rally on 16 October in Beed district of Maharashtra, demanding a tougher Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The rally led by a young kid, and followed by girls, women, senior citizens and youngsters, concluded with the group handing over a representation to the district collector. Strict punishment to the accused who brutally raped and murdered a 13-year-old Maratha girl on 13 July 2016 in Kopardi village of Ahmednagar district was one of the other demands.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

This was the first time Dalits had taken to the street, almost more than two months after members of the Maratha community and other upper castes started organising rallies at various cities across the state. Since 9 August, the first Maratha rally in Aurangabad, Marathas have held over 40 rallies with each rally witnessing more than three to five lakh participants.

But why now? According to political pundits, the answer to the question isn’t as clear as perceived.

An analogy of demands

The Maratha rallies began with a demand of stricter punishment for the accused in the Kopardi rape case. Now it also includes demands like reservation for Marathas and removal of recent amendments to the SC/ST (PoA) Act.

The Dalits also demand strict punishment for the Kopardi rape accused, and have not opposed reservation for Maratha community. It’s the latter that has scared them. While the Marathas want removal of the recent amendments in the SC/ST (PoA) Act, the Dalits want tougher rules in the act.

People vs party: Who is behind Dalit rallies?

When talks of Dalit marches started doing the rounds, Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and president of Bharatiya Republic Party and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, called Dalit orginisations across the state to withhold from organising rallies against Maratha rallies. He alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were trying to create differences between the two communities.

Despite the calls by senior leaders and social activists, Dalits have held five rallies in Beed, Nanded, Jalna, Parbhani and Aurangabd, with each attracting over 2-3 lakh participants. And more rallies are being planned across the state.

Explaining the demands by Dalits, Rohidas Gaikwad, one of the members from the organising committee of the Dalit rallies, said, “The central government in January 2016 amended the SC/ST (PoA) Act making it tougher to tackle atrocities against Dalits. But the Maharashtra state government is yet to implement the amended law. We want the government to implement it. More than 2,500 cases of atrocities are pending at courts across the state. We want state government to try these cases in fast track courts by establishing special atrocity courts.”

Atrocities vs reservation: A 40-year-old crisis

All Ambedkarite organisations, nomadics, denotified, muslims, tribals and other vulnerable sections of the society are also participating in the Dalit rallies. The rallies are disciplined, peaceful and volunteers clean the roads once it’s over.

But the rallies are also supporting demands of other marginalised communities such as Muslims, nomadics, the denotified and tribals. The Dalit rallies, supported by Muslims, also demand 5% reservation for Muslims in education and employment. The rallies have also demanded to protect all vulnerable communities like nomadics, the denotified and tribals under the SC/ST (PoA) Act. They also want a special commission to be established for the welfare of cobbler community.

Baburao Potrabe another organiser of the Dalit rallies says that the Kopardi case is just a reason to demand removal of the latest amendments in the SC/ST (PoA) Act. “They want to pressurise the government with the number of participants. They want to suppress an already vulnerable section of the society,” he says.

The Maratha Kranti silent morchas have caused a lot of tension in Maharashtra politics. PTI

The Maratha Kranti silent morchas have caused a lot of tension in Maharashtra politics. PTI

Portrabe adds, “The Dalits also demand strict punishment for the accused in the Kopardi rape case. They also don’t have any issue with Marathas getting reservation. Then why are the Marathas holding rallies?”

However, according to political observer and senior journalist, Kumar Ketkar, the real issue of contention is the demand for reservation by Marathas and not SC/ST (PoA) Act, as perceived widely. “Dalits versus Maratha confrontation is 40 years old. But it became intense after the Mandal Commission in 1989 gave Kunabis, a section of Maratha community, reservation status under Other Backward Caste category. The move was opposed by Dalits and OBCs. And now the Kunabi community has also joined Marathas in the rallies. The SC/ST (PoA) Act is a camouflage as not many cases are filed against Marathas under the act,” he says.

Ketkar also informs that agricultural crisis is one of the main reasons behind the rallies. “The poor Marathas and small landholder Marathas have suffered hugely. The well-off Marathas and local capitalism flourished, but it also created unemployed Maratha youth and further marginalisation Dalits. However, while the Dalits have slight advantage of reservation, the Marathas don’t. So, it is a fight for a small cake which is getting smaller.”

Pankaja Munde takes on Devendra Fadnavis at Bhagwangad

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was at the eleventh hour that the district administration conveyed to Munde that she would not be allowed to address public rally at Bhagwangad. She was instead given permission to hold the function at the foothills of Bhagwangad, which is a place for worship for Vanjari community. The Mahant of Bhagwangad, Namdev Shastri had announced that he would not allow Pankaja Munde to make any political speech at Bhagwangad.In the backdrop of tension, thousands of Munde’s supporters gathered at the foothills of Bhagwangad, situated around 335 kms from Mumbai and on the borders of Ahmednagar and Beed districts.Former deputy chief minister late Gopinath Munde started the tradition of organising Dussehra rallies at Bhagwangad and every year used to address the devotees, largely his supporters, there.
ALSO READ Show of strength by Pankaja Munde at BhagwangadApart from Pankaja, ministers Ram Shinde, Mahadev Jankar and Sadabhau Khot and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana founder and MP, Raju Shetti, attended the rally.While Pankaja reached Bhagwangad in a chopper, her sister and Lok Sabha MP Preetam Munde came to Bhagwangad from Parali in a convoy of 200 white cars. Pointing it out that she was denied permission to address this crowd at Bhagwangad, citing law and order issues, Munde said, “Now we are just 500 metres away. If there is a law and order problem there, why it is not here at the foothills? I don’t have any ego issues, but have self-respect. People are not foolish to understand as to why I was prevented from addressing them at the Bhagwangad.”
ALSO READ Maharashtra: Pankaja Munde in fresh row over ‘threat’ audio clipAT A GLANCEWaging a scathing attack on Pankaja’s cousin who deserted late Gopinath Munde and joined NCP, Mahadev Jankar said that Dhananjay was nothing but Ajit Pawar’s sycophant. Khot said that they would not allow anyone to isolate Pankajatai. Ram Shinde said that in coming days, he would stand by Pankajatai strongly since it was Pankajatai who gave her department to him as a minister.Saying that she would not speak anything against the Bhagwangad, Munde said that Bhagwanbaba also knows that people are with her. Stating that she would not resign just because of series of allegations, Munde said that she was being cornered from all angles by making various allegations after regular intervals. Taking a dig at the previous Congress-NCP government without naming it, Munde said that she appreciates the silent Maratha marches and spirit behind the same but when those who were in power for years could not provide reservation, was it justifiable that the same can be provided in just two year’s time. She said that it is a tragedy that such marches are being taken out in the name of caste instead of being teachers’ marches or farmers’ marches. Stating that she was pained at the allegations against her, she asked what was the point in being in power if one can’t ensure justice to downtrodden.

Show of strength by Pankaja Munde at Bhagwangad

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It was a show of strength by senior minister Pankaja Munde on Tuesday morning as thousands of her supporters gathered at the foothills of Bhagwangad, situated at around 335 kms from Mumbai and on the borders of Ahmednagar and Beed districts.Former deputy chief minister late Gopinath Munde had started the tradition of organising Dussera rallies at Bhagwangad and every year he used to address the devotees, largely his supporters. The Mahant of Bhagwangad, Namdev Shastri had announced that he would not allow Pankaja Munde to make any political speech there, which had created a controversy. Pankaja had vowed to visit Bhagwangad, leading to tension at the spot, with the district administration deploying heavy police bandobast for the last two days. Pankaja’s sister and Beed Lok Sabha MP Dr. Preetam Munde on Tuesday morning started a rally along with 200 vehicles from Beed to Bhagwangad. Both the sisters reached Bhagwangad foothills where the district administration announced that Pankaja would not be allowed to address a rally on the hill but could address the rally at the foothills. Thousands of her supporters did not allow Pankaja to come out of her vehicle and insisted that she address them at Bhagwangad, which created tension for some time. Meanwhile, after thousands of supporters started gathering at Bhagwangad foothills on Tuesday morning, Namdev Shastri changed his stance and said that he would welcome Pankaja. He said that she was welcome and could come as if it is her home and also have lunch there. Pankaja, after reaching the foothills, maintained restraint and said she would seek blessings from Bhagwanbaba and try to interact with her supporters.

Kopardi rape and murder: Charge sheet filed against three accused

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Ahmednagar police have filed a 350-page charge sheet against the three accused in the Kopardi rape-and-murder case. The incident has triggered a wave of unrest among the Maratha community and silent rallies across Maharashtra.It was was feared that if the charge sheet was not filed within the 90 days from the date of the crime, the accused would have a better chance to get bail. The 90-day period ends on October 11.“We have recorded the statements of 70 people in the case. The charges were filed against Jitendra alias Pappu Shinde, Santosh Bhaval and Nitin Bhailune. The matter will come up in court and the accused will be stringently punished,”said Shahshiraj Patole, inspector at the Ahmednagar crime branch.The three have been charge under IPC Sections 302 (murder) and 376 (rape). “We want the court to treat this as the rarest of the rare case by looking at the heinous crime of the culprit. That will help award capital punishment to the accused. All political parties, including the BJP, have demanded capital punishment to the accused,” said a senior police officer. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who is fighting the case for the 15-year-old Maratha girl who was raped and murdered on July 13, said that the case will be tried at a special fast-track court in Ahmednagar. “In two months, charges will be framed and punishment will be given. We expect the judgment in three months. We do not want to leave any gap in the case. Hence the delay in filing the charge sheet,” Patole said. NCP MP Supriya Sule had threatened of a stir if the charge sheet was not filed soon. “This is for the first time in history that the Marathas stood united and decided to fight. It has also put forth other demands such as an amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, reservation for Marathas, and the implementation of the Dr Swaminathan report for fair price to the farmers’ produce. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis should take serious note of the issue,” said Purushottam Khedekar, president of Maratha Seva Sangh.

Marathwada development gets a Rs 49,248-crore booster

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Maharashtra cabinet on Tuesday announced a Rs 49,248 crore-development plan for the Marathwada region. Top priority would be accorded to the long-pending demand of bringing water from the Krishna Valley projects to the region and Rs 4,800 crore has been sanctioned for the same.Addressing a news conference at the Aurangabad district collector’s office after the special cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the development plan would be spread over four years and Rs 1,200 crore would be spent on the Krishna water project every year.Fadnavis said that his government would continue to work for the development of the backward regions of Vidarbha, Marathwada, north Maharashtra and Konkan. In fact, the meeting, lasting over three hours, took more than 20 decisions, including a few new ones.For bringing water from the Krishna Valley projects, the government would take a special permission from the governor.Two railway projects – Ahmednagar-Beed-Parali and Wardha-Nanded – would entail Rs 5,326 crore. For the development of the region’s road infrastructure, which includes national highways, state highways and others, Rs 30,000 crore will be earmarked.A separate commissionerate for water conservation in Aurangabad for creating a water grid for Marathwada would be set up in 4-6 months. Its likely cost would be Rs 15,000 crore. It is not included in the financial package since its detailed project report (DPR) is yet to be prepared.Fadnavis said that estimates are yet to be finalised for a few projects. The cabinet decisions would be implemented by the respective departments in a stipulated time frame and it would boost the development of all eight Marathwada districts, he said.

Maratha morchas: Challenge for Devendra Fadnavis as lawyer vows to defend activist Sanjiv Bhor

Mumbai: Even as tension is quietly brewing in Maharashtra over the Maratha silent morchas, a show cause notice to the movement’s leader Sanjiv Bhor from the Ahmednagar police might push the state into a complicated law and order situation.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

After around two months since the Maratha Kranti silent morchas were successfully carried out across 24 districts in the state, the government is now gearing up to prevent a similar march in the future.

What could worry the state government is that the Marathas are not willing to give up the agitation anytime soon unless their demands are fulfilled.

An engineer by training, Bhor (42) left his job in 2009 and embarked on a social mission to educate his community on the alleged misuse of the Atrocity Act against them. A former member of the Sambhaji Brigade, he later went on to found the Shivprahar Sanghtan as became its founder president.

Bhor is already in the headlines by naming all the four alleged rape accused suspected to be behind the heinous crime that happened on 13 July at Kopardi in Ahmednagar. The incident was so barbaric that a Firstpost piece quoting The Asian Age said the victim was a ninth standard girl and her body was badly mutilated.

In the show cause sent to Bhor, the police sought to know why the Shivprahar Sanghtan president should not be banned from the six districts of Ahmednagar, Pune, Solapur, Beed, Aurangabad and Nashik. The notice has put a huge question mark on the silent morchas.

The notice stated that his presence in these districts could create a serious “law-and-order problem”, “threaten communal harmony and national integration”. Bhor, who is a strong advocate seeking reservation for Marathas has sought capital punishment for the accused in the Kopardi gangrape and murder case.

Talking to Firstpost, Bhor confirmed that he received the show cause notice signed by Ahmednagar, assistant police superintendent, Chinmay Patil.

“Despite such notice, the state government cannot end the Maratha silent March. I am ready to face anything for my community. I already replied to the notice and I will challenge it,” Bhor said. “The next hearing before the magistrate is on 17 October. Police fear that if I stayed in any of these six districts then there might be law and order problem,” he said.

The Shivprahar Sanghtan president said that all the offences which the police labelled against him are two years old and two offences were registered in last three months. All these offences are related to agitation and damage to public property.

The notice pointed out that Bhor had organised meetings without the consent of the authority and blamed him for causing social disharmony by creating a rift between the SC/ST and upper caste community.

Bhor also criticised the role of the mainstream media while covering the Maratha agitation.

Well known lawyer Satish Maneshinde has even threatened to challenge the government in the courts and is ready to fight for Bhor and other activists who find themselves in similar circumstances without charging any fee.

Talking to Firstpost, Maneshinde said that there was neither violence and nor any issue related to public hygiene as mentioned in the show cause.

“There was no traffic problem as well. But I heard that Ahmednagar police sent a show cause notice to Bhor. This is illegal. How can the police send a notice?” Maneshinde questioned. “Is he a criminal or doing any criminal activity? So I decided that whenever the cases on such brave activists will come I will fight against the government free of cost across the state. Even I am from the same community. Does the Devendra Fadnavis government want to rule the state like Gujarat?” he asked.

To calm down tempers, Chief Minister Fadnavis has decided to call a one-day special session to discuss reservation for the Maratha community and review the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Meanwhile, the next morcha is scheduled on 15 October in Kolhapur while the Mumbai one is planned after Diwali and before the commencement of the Winter Session of the Assembly.

“The government is under immense pressure to handle the demands of Maratha community,” said a senior IAS official unwilling to be named.

Maharashtra: Former minister’s sugar mill seized for Rs 383 crore dues

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A sugar mill owned by former Maharashtra minister Babanrao Pachpute in Ahmednagar district has been seized by its financer over non-payment of loan dues.The BJP leader’s Saikrupa Sugar and Allied Industries mill in Shrigonda tehsil of Ahmednagar district had a total outstanding amount of Rs 383 crore.The financer — Punjab National Bank at Kalyaninagar in Pune on Friday communicated to Ahmednagar District Collector about the seizure of the mill and its property.The mill is owned by Pachpute, who was the state minister for tribal development from NCP in the previous government.He subsequently fell out with NCP leadership, and joined BJP before the 2014 state elections, but failed to retain his seat from Shrigonda Assembly segment in Ahmednagar district.Saikrupa Sugar Mill is one of the biggest establishments in the state in terms of crushing capacity, but Ahmednagar being a rain-shadow region–his mill could not get sufficient supply of sugarcane in last some years. It increased sugar production cost and Pachpute failed to get sufficient rates for his mill during last couple of years. The direct impact was on repayment of his loan amount.The mill had sought a loan from Punjab National Bank, Andhra Bank and Bank of Baroda that disbursed amounts to the tune of Rs 278 crore in 2012, where PNB was the lead bank. Including interest over the loan, the total outstanding amount reached up to Rs 383 crore and the mill management expressed its inability to repay it.The PNB on December 17, 2015 granted 60-day notice period for repayment of the loan.After the mill failed to do so, the bank on March 23 issued the seizure notice to the management that it is taking charge of the mill. It undertook the procedure of collecting details of total land holding, real estate belonging to the management of the mill among others.The PNB on Friday informed Ahmednagar district collector Anil Kawade that it has seized the property of the mill including Pachpute’s office and a bungalow named ‘Mauli’, in Shrigonda town.Kawade confirmed the development and stated that he is waiting for the further instructions from the state government regarding the same.Yogesh Pande, spokesperson of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna, a farmers’ front in the state said, “The mill has an outstanding amount of Rs 35 crore to sugarcane cultivators. It should be repaid to farmers first. If the bank is going to sell the mill and its property to some private entity, the farmers’ arrears cannot be ignored. We are closely watching the development and if needed, we will stage an agitation for our payment.”

Marathas look to roll out strength in numbers campaign

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After the lukewarm response from the BJP-led state and central government, the Maratha community has urged elected representatives across the party line to resign if they are unable to fulfill the community’s demands. After the success of the Kranti Muk Morcha held across various parts of the state to demand strict punishment for the accused in the Kopardi rape case, members of the Mumbai unit are planning a similar protest in the city. The Maratha Kranti Morcha held a meeting at Shivaji Mandir in Dadar on Friday to chalk out a plan.”Of the total strength of 288 in the state assembly, 149 MLAs belong to the Maratha community. As community members form a majority, they can write to the chief minister asking for a special session in order to get their demands fulfilled,” said a senior Maratha leader on condition of anonymity.Members suggested that the morcha should happen after Diwali. However, a few of them wanted the morcha to be held after the winter session of the state assembly, which is scheduled on December 5.”We paid heed to all suggestions. Now, all districts ordinations will be called to Aurangabad on October 9 where the Mumbai morcha date will be finalised and we are expecting almost a crore members to participate,” said one of the meeting’s organisers on condition of anonymity. He added, “The CM should make crucial decisions before the morcha or we will celebrate Black Diwali by covering lamps with black cloth.”After the Kopardi rape and murder case, the Maratha community protested in large numbers demanding capital punishment for the perpetrators of the rape and murder of a Maratha girl. They also demanded for the amendment to the Atrocities Act, reservation for Marathas and implementation of Dr Swaminathan’s report highlighting fair prices of grains.”If the party leadership doesn’t meet the community’s demands, they should resign. This will ensure CM Devendra Fadnavis’ government becomes a minority in the assembly. This will almost definitely lead to another election. We will only vote for those who will work for the betterment of our community.” said another Maratha leader.The Maratha kranti morcha has proven that the community does not require leadership. Now, the Marathas are proud of their caste and this mutual feeling is binding the community emotionally. Organisers said the services of 500 existing WhatsApp groups will be used to reach out to other members of the community who live in the state. Since it is impossible to reach out for support from other Maratha members, the kranti morcha plans to make use of social media platforms to build support. Social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter will be used to draw maximum participation.The Maratha community has been protesting for over a month now. A number of Maratha organisations have been holding silent protests against the rape and murder of a Maratha girl in Kopardi village of Ahmednagar district. Earlier in the week, Shiv Sena moutpiece Saamna was at the centre of a maelstrom after it published a caricature mocking the silent demonstrations organised by the Marathas. However, the Shiv Sena has blamed the NCP and Congress for fanning passions in the state.

On the 10-year anniversary of the Khairlanji massacre, the Maratha agitation is gaining momentum

This Thursday, ten years will have passed since the Khairlanji massacre where Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, a Dalit, lost his family in a village in Maharashtra. On 29 September 2006, Bhotmange, 61, went to work on his farm near the village, and when he came back, he found his wife Surekha, 45, daughter Priyanka, 17, sons Sudhir and Roshan, 21 and 19, murdered by a mob. The massacre enraged Dalits, who took to the streets for a wide-spread silent protest, which soon got aggressive.

The 10-year anniversary of the incident coincides with the Maratha-Kunbi movement for abrogation of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act which was triggered by the rape of a girl by Dalits in Kopardi in July. Rallies held by lakhs of people in absolute silence have been going on across Maharashtra for more than a month.

This Thursday, the Maratha movement reminds us of that fateful evening of 29 September.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The Khairlanji massacre

On 28 September 2006, Surekha, Bhaiyyalal’s wife had lodged a complaint against the participants in an assault on the village policeman, another Dalit, Siddharth Gajbhiye. The accused were members of the politically dominant Kunbi caste who had received the OBC status by the Maharashtra government in 2001.

The day after the complaint was lodged, the accused were arrested but soon let off on bail after which they returned to the village and lynched the Bhotmange family.

For three hours that evening, as Bhaiyyalal was on his farm, a group of villagers surrounded the hut where the family lived, then abused, assaulted, and killed the four people. There were allegations that the women in the family were raped, however the CBI investigations concluded that they weren’t.

That evening when Bhaiyyalal came home, he saw his dead family.

The incident wasn’t picked up by the media immediately. However as the Dalits of the state started a widespread movement seeking justice, the details of the incident came to light. This incident triggered one of the most prominent Dalit movement.

In September 2008, six people, who were charged with wiping out the Dalit family, were given death sentence for the crime by the specially appointed Fast Track trial court.

However in July 2010, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court in the case disappointing large sections of the Dalit community as they, on appeal, commuted the death sentence on the grounds that it was “not the rarest of the rare cases” warranting the death penalty. The court modified the life terms of the accused and gave them 25-year imprisonment.

The judges presiding on the case ruled that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 was not applicable to the Khairlanji case. In their view there was no caste angle to the case. The panel who heard the appeal held that the murders of Surekha, Priyanka, Sudhir and the visually challenged Roshan was not motivated by caste prejudice; it was a case of “revenge killing.”

According to an editorial by The Hindu, the caste profile of the Khairlanji village in Bhandara district was relevant to the case as the Other Backward caste (OBC) people formed a majority of the village. The village was known for its prejudice against Dalits.

The case is currently being presided over by the Supreme court and Bhaiyyalal hopes that he gets justice. Each year the Dalit-Buddhist organisations light candles on the spot where the family once lived. Today the hut is gone but Bhaiyyalal keeps the iron cot as a reminder of the events that occurred.

The Maratha agitation

In the past two months, the Maratha community has taken out various silent marches in Maharashtra in cities like Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Amravati, etc. demanding justice in the rape and murder of a girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar district two months ago.

On 13 July, a 15-year-old Maratha girl was allegedly gang raped and murdered by four Dalit youths who inflicted injuries all over her body. They allegedly broke her limbs too before throttling her at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar.

The incident had sparked public outrage as well as a political slug-fest, with the Congress demanding Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ resignation on “moral grounds”.

After the gang-rape, Maratha Kranti silent morchas were held in Akola, Nanded, Beed, Osmanabad, Aurangabad, Jalgaon and Jalna districts.

Apart from demanding death penalty for the accused, the Maratha community leaders pressed for scrapping of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act), saying it is grossly misused, and also raised other demands like quota in education and jobs.

As pointed out in a previous Firstpost report, the entire Dalit community of Kopardi village wanted death penalty for the accused an yet they weren’t allowed to be part of the protest. This has raised questions over the legitimacy of the intentions of the protests.

The situation today

The two incidents of murder have triggered responses from the two communities — Dalit and Maratha. After brutal incidents such as Kopardi incident, the Dadri lynching (where a family was massacred for allegedly consuming beef), the Una incident (where four youth were canned for carrying cow carcasses), and the Rohit Vemula case (where a Dalit scholar of the Hyderabad University committed suicide after being suspended), tempers are fraying and it remains to be seen which, if any community recieves justice.

March to protest Kopardi rape-murder on Sep 24

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A silent march will be taken out by members of the Maratha community on September 24 here to protest the rape and murder of a minor girl in Kopardi in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district.”The silent march ‘Maratha Kranti Morcha’ will be taken out from Tapovan in Panchavati locality and culminate at the Golf Grounds,” members of a committee organising the march told reporters yesterday. The committee comprises Shiv Sena MP Hemant Godse, BJP MLA Seema Hiray and Nashik District Congress Committee Chief Rajaram Pangavhane among others.The 15-year-old girl was brutally raped on July 13 allegedly by three men who inflicted injuries all over her body and broke her limbs before throttling her at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar.The incident had sparked public outrage across Maharashtra. During the march, demands like reservation for the Maratha community will also be raised, said the members.The committee members will also submit a memorandum of demands to the Nashik District Collector, they added. I

Anna Hazare to launch attack on Eknath Khadse over corruption charges

Ahmednagar (Maharashtra): Veteran social activist Anna Hazare will try to create moral pressure on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as its most senior minister, Eknath Khadse, is facing charges of corruption, an aide said on Wednesday.

Social activist Anjali Damania, who met Hazare, said she will stage a sit-in outside the chief minister’s official residence ‘Varsha’ on the Malabar Hill in Mumbai from Thursday to demand Khadse’s resignation from the state cabinet.

She said Hazare will shortly speak to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue, as part of his anti-corruption agenda.

File photo of Eknath Khadse. PTIFile photo of Eknath Khadse. PTI

File photo of Eknath Khadse. PTI

Hazare conveyed his intention to Damania when she called on him at his Ralegan-Siddhi village in Ahmednagar.

Damania showed Hazare the documents purportedly linking Khadse to certain scams and said the 78-year-old well known social activist was “shocked”.

Meawhile, Mumbai police slapped Damania with a notice prohibiting her from agitating in the sensitive VVIP zone.

Some BJP activists and Khadse supporters too threatened to burn her effigy in Jalgaon, the northern Maharashtra district from where the minister hails.

Damania hit back at the BJP with a tweet: “Achche Din… Great, BJP! Instead of burning effigy of those indulging in corruption, you are targeting those fighting against graft.”

Both Hazare and Damania have in the past targeted ministers, bureaucrats and officials for various acts of alleged corruption spanning several key government departments.

The beleaguered Khadse — number two in the state cabinet and holding around 10 key portfolios, including revenue — has been accused of corruption by different opposition parties too, which have demanded his sacking or resignation.

Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam on Monday led a delegation to Maharashtra Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao to demand Khadse’s removal.

On Monday, Pune-based businessman-cum-activist Hemant L. Gawande accused Khadse, his wife and son-in-law of various irregularities in the purchase of a piece of land.

Gawande charged Khadse with misusing power and authority, subverting laws, bypassing norms, evading tax, pressurising officials and other wrongdoings in closing the land deal in April to benefit his family members.

The ruling BJP, however, dismissed as “baseless and mala fide” the allegations against Khadse.

28,000 villages of Maharashtra hit by drought, CM Fadnavis seeks increased funding

Battling drought in 28,000 villages, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday sought increased funding for several central schemes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the situation in the state with him.Fadnavis, however, declined to share information on how much money the state has asked for from the Centre. He said overall 28,000 villages have been hit by drought in the state across 20-22 districts. This includes the entire Marathwada region, West Vidarbha, districts of Ahmednagar, Solpaur and Sangli to an extent.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In fresh scenario, the magnitude of the drought has increased and 11,000 more villages have been affected,” he told reporters after the meeting with Modi. The Prime Minister called for focus on medium and long term solutions for drought-proofing.”CM @Dev_Fadnavis & I held wide-ranging discussions on the drought in parts of Maharashtra & how to mitigate it,” Modi tweeted. “Stressed on vitality of increasing water use efficiency through sprinkler & drip irrigation including in sugarcane cultivation,” he added.In another tweet, the Prime Minister said, “Usage of modern solid & liquid waste management practices in urban areas will also benefit the adjoining rural areas.” Fadnavis said the state government has chalked out a plan to tackle drought situation in Marathwada and Vidarbha, which includes creation of a “guaranteed irrigation” plan over the next 2-3 years.An additional plan to have better water management system in Western Maharashtra was presented to the Centre, he said, adding the state has demanded Rs 7500 for these two projects. “We have been allowed to send a supplementary proposal for relief now. We also did a presentation on what pre-monsoon work that could be done in the coming six-weeks. This includes de-silting work at several places, improvement of structures,” Fadnavis said, adding that a long term plan to combat with drought was also presented to the PM.”It is for the first time that the Centre sanctioned highest ever relief to the state. We has initially asked for Rs 4500 crore, but the Centre sanctioned over Rs 3000 crore, the highest ever in the state’s history. Of this, Rs 2500 crore has already been disbrused.

Women’s entry in temples: Traditions take long time to change, says VHP’s Pravin Togadia

VHP leader Pravin Togadia on Friday said traditions take a long time to change and getting angry over them is no solution, comments coming in the backdrop of ongoing campaigns in Maharashtra seeking entry of women into certain places of worship in the state.”It is a matter of tradition whether to allow (women) inside a temple or a dargah. It is wrong to get angry over the issue as it takes hundreds of years to change traditions,” he told reporters here.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The VHP International Working President was responding to questions regarding campaigns launched by Bhumata Brigde, an outfit led by activist Trupti Desai, and others, for entry of women into inner sanctum of Ahmednagar Shani Temple, Trimbakeshwar Temple in Nashik, and Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah. “Instead of getting angry over the issue of women’s entry into temples or dargah, what is needed is involvement of local civilians and trusts to sort out the matter,” said Togadia, who was here to take part in a VHP programme.”It will take time to change traditions. There was a time when ‘ghunghat’ (veil) system was widespread in the country. This is not the case now,” he said. The VHP leader expressed hopes that the Modi government, which has a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, will enact a law to facilitate construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya.He later spoke at a training programme organised for ‘health ambassadors’ of ‘India Health Line’ – a network of doctors for providing free medical care to the needy. The initiative was launched by Togadia in 2014 in several cities for facilitating a connect between the poor patients and medical fraternity. Togadia, himself a cancer surgeon by qualification, said increasing prevalence of lifestyle diseases is a matter of concern.

Haji Ali row: Trupti Desai would be welcomed with slippers if she enters dargah, says Shiv Sena leader Haji Arafat

As women rights activist Trupti Desai is all set to lead the movement to Haji Ali Dargah next week, a Muslim leader of the Shiv Sena has said that Bhoomata Ranragini Brigade leader would be hit by chappals if she attempts to enter the dargah.After the successful right-to-pray campaign centred around the Shani Temple in Ahmednagar district, and Trimbakeshwar Temple in Nashik district, a similar public-backed movement has been launched to seek entry of women into the core area of the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 20 outfits, NGOs and human right activists in last week announced formation of ‘Haji Ali Sabke Liye’ to peacefully campaign against the ban on entry of women into the interiors of the 15th century Sufi shrine, located on a small islet in the Arabian Sea and visited by hundreds of people everyday.“Trupti Desai says will enter and touch Mazaar at Haji Ali, we strongly condemn this. If she makes an attempt then she would be welcomed with ‘prasad’ of chappals,” reported ABP quoting Haji Arafat Shaikh, a Muslim leader of the Shiv Sena. Arafat, who joined the Shiv Sena after leaving the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in 2014, said that the attempt by Desai to enter the Haji Ali Dargah is a conspiracy meant to disturb Mumbai’s peaceful environment.”I will become the voice of my religion and won’t let her touch the mazaar. Many Muslim women are also opposing her,” Shaikh added.The Bombay High Court is hearing a petition challenging the Haji Ali Trust’s decision to ban the entry of women into the sanctum of the shrine. The Maharashtra Government had in February supported the entry of women to the Haji Ali Dargah. The government had told the Bombay High Court that the entry of women cannot be prohibited.(With PTI/ANI inputs)

Maharashtra drought: Section 144 imposed in area around Kukadi canal in Ahmednagar

As drought-hit Maharashtra struggles to cope up with demands for water, the severity of problems faced by locals has increased.Section 144 has been imposed in the area around Kukadi canal in Ahmednagar district. Earlier, section 144 was imposed in Latur and Parbani regions. Earlier, a 62-year-old woman died after an altercation over water in Nashik district of Maharashtra turned ugly. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Water woes in the parched districts of Maharashtra are only deepening with every passing day, as the water levels in dams across the state have reached a new low.Even though monsoon is nearly two months away, dams across the state have only 19% water left, while the dams in drought-hit Marathwada region have hit a historic low with only 3% water in the reservoirs. According to a report in a leading daily, eight of the region’s 11 major dams are at dead storage level and only 3% water is left in the dams in Marathwada. Last year at this time, the water level in Marathwada’s dams was at 11%. Dams across the state have only 19% water left compared to 32% at this time in 2015.Three trains have been used to carry water in order to supply water to the drought-hit district of Latur.After two back-to-back years of drought in the country, Skymet, the government and other agencies expect a normal monsoon this year. A prediction, if it comes true, will bring major relief to the several drought- and water crisit-hit areas in the country. Private Indian weather forecaster Skymet predicts an “above normal” monsoon this year. With agency inputs.

Drought selfie: Former Congress minister backs Pankaja Munde; calls her ‘energetic Minister’

Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde, under fire for clicking a selfie during her visit to drought-hit Marathwada, has found support from an unlikely quarter today with a senior Congress leader saying the BJP leader snapped photo as she has done work in the region.”She took the selfie as she has done work. She is young, energetic Minister,” former minister Balasaheb Thorat said.Munde, who is Rural Development Minister, came under the line of fire from across the political spectrum for clicking selfie while she was at a village in drought-hit Latur on Sunday for reviewing the desilting work in Manjara river, which has nearly dried up.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Those criticising her should first see what they have done. Nobody seems to have noticed Pankaja is walking in the scorching sun (while taking the selfie),” Thorat told reporters at Ahmednagar.”Have those flaying her switched off air conditioners in their homes?” Thorat asked.Munde’s act of clicking selfies had come under attack from ruling ally Shiv Sena as well as the Opposition.Criticising the Minister, the Opposition Congress and the NCP had said Munde has mocked the drought-affected farmers by such a “shameful act”. Munde has defended herself saying she took pictures out of elation on seeing water in a trench in the dried up river.

Maharashtra: Sugar factories adding to drought in Marathwada?

Despite the fact that an experts panel had recommended in its report in 1999 that the setting up of more sugar factories in Marathwada should be disallowed, the state government gave permission for 20 private sugar factories in the region in 2012 — a drought year — and it is the excessive use of water for sugarcane that has added a crippling man-made element to the drought in the region at present.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While the government has now decided to disallow the setting up of further sugar factories in the Marathwada region, which has been worst hit by a successive drought year, the damage is already visible.Sugarcane factories, in order to maximise gains from the cash crop, use an inordinate amount of water to increase production.Pradeep Purandare, a water expert from Aurangabad who has served as a member on the Marathwada Statutory Development Board, told dna that the Chitale committee had recommended in 1999 that the government should not give permission to any new sugar factory in the Marathwada region. But not only did the government in 2012 give permission to the 20 private sugar factories, 15 more proposals are pending, according to information given by a local MLA, Purandare added.He said that the time has come to ban sugarcane sowing in the region and the entire crisis at present is because of the unequal distribution of resources. He said that for the equitable distribution of water to be made possible, the use of water from the Godavari basis in Nashik and Ahmednagar should be extended to the Marathwada region and the government must ensure this as early as possible.The state government has vowed to introduce the drip irrigation method for sugarcane farming. But despite it being during the tenure of former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan that an announcement was made about drip irrigation for sugarcane being introduced in the next three years, nothing much has happened. Shivajirao Nagawade, the chairman of the federation of the cooperative sugar factories in Maharashtra, told dna that only 10% of the sugarcane in the state, at the most, is being cultivated with drip irrigation.After it was clear that the monsoon wasn’t as likely to be reliable as it was in earlier years, farmers from Solapur, Indapur in Pune district and Sangamner in Ahmednagar, for instance, have shifted to horticulture from sugarcane. Sajjan Deshmukh, who, along with his two brothers, has 110 acres of land in Barshi taluka of Solapur district, told dna that it’s only lazy farmers who shift to the water-intensive crop of sugarcane. He added that his family left sugarcane aside and went in for horticulture instead, since pomegranate fetches a good price in the market.Deshmukh also said that there are various reasons for farmers to opt for sugarcane cultivation. For instance, sugarcane is a crop which, in addition to being a cash crop, can withstand the vagaries of nature and a few other obstacles. He said that ever since manpower to work in the fields has become difficult to attain, sugarcane — being less labour-intensive — is often opted for over other crops. Plus, farmers also opt for sugarcane, the cycle for which is of 18 months, since it can match the monetary benefits of other crops due to the advantage of a ready market in sugar factories, Deshmukh added.Deshmukh also said that the water used by a farmer for growing sugarcane on one acre of land in his village is almost equivalent to the water used by a farmer to grow pomegranates on 5 to 7 acres. He also said that it is for the cooperative sugar factories to ensure that farmers use drip irrigation for sugarcane cultivation by offering incentives for the same.

Sadhvi Prachi for bats for women’s entry into temples

VHP leader Sadhvi Prachi on Saturday said women should be allowed entry into temples but they may be restricted during the periods.Speaking to reporters after visiting the Sai Baba temple in Nashik, Prachi said not allowing women in temples in the modern times is wrong.”However, the entry of women can be restricted for five days of month during their periods,” she said.Lashing out at those who do not want to say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, she said such people “should be thrown out of the country or dumped into the Indian ocean”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The trustees of Shani temple at Shingnapur in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra on Friday allowed women to enter its core area for the first time following an agitation and a High Court order.Supporting the women’s agitation for gaining entry into religious places, Prachi said those discriminating against the women must realise they “didn’t fall out of sky or emerged from the earth” and it was a woman which gave birth to them. She also deplored the practises such as triple talaq among the Muslim community.

Marathwada’s drought: Region is parched, impoverished and desperate, but it’s a crisis of its own making

Maharashtra is a state full of contradictions.

It is a state rife with more inequality than most.

And it is a state where each territory tries to exploit, and ends up feeling exploited.

The cries for water and the spurt in suicides in parched Marathwada are just some of the sharp manifestations of the rot that threatens to tear the state apart. Maharashtra has almost 20 percent of its population living on just two percent of its land area (around Mumbai, Pune and Nashik). The western regions generate much of the money for the state. Marathwada remains the biggest exploiter in the entire state. And Vidarbha ends up remaining the most exploited; a shriller Marathwada, seeking a greater share of drought relief meant for the state, can drown out its cries.

It is undeniable that Marathwada faces a crisis.

But it is a crisis of its own making, abetted by politicians and policymakers who have allowed this situation to develop. This region’s politicians have misused funds for irrigation, have run cooperative banks into losses (remember how the Rs 1,100-crore losses of the Maharashtra Cooperative Bank turned into profits in the very first year its board was dissolved by the RBI and a professional board appointed?). That Marathwada has been an exploiter all along cannot be denied. Only, this time, it claims to have become the exploited.


The cries for water and the spurt in suicides in parched Marathwada are just some of the sharp manifestations of the rot that threatens to tear the state apart. Image credit: Parth MN

Here’s a sample:

It is home to a few regions from where power charges are not even collected. This was the case till the government (under former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan) decided to categorise non-paying regions into categories A, B, C and all the way up to G. The lower the grading, the more the power cuts and load shedding in that region. Regions that paid their power bills were more likely to get uninterrupted power supply. This mechanism alone compelled some of Marathwada’s regions to become a bit more regular in paying their power bills. However, most power bills are compiled for these regions on the assumption that they are meant for agriculture and thus must be charged a presumptive tariff at the rate of just around Rs 1.20/kWh. What is frightening is that this exploitation of groundwater has continued even though water tables have dipped alarmingly in the state, threatening the health of agricultural soil.

The low (or non-existent) tariff has allowed this state to set up water pumps to draw out water from the ground recklessly. As a result, Marathwada is guilty of using more water than its share. As a result, more water soaks up farmlands, resulting in leeching and salinity of the soil degrading its soil quality even further. So, if the wells are dry today, it is because the state has allowed the sugar industry to use up the ground water recklessly.


The imprudent approach of the state government is evident in the manner in which Marathwada has been allowed to grow sugarcane. This crop accounts for just four percent of agricultural land, but soaks up over 70 percent of the water. What makes the situation grim and irresponsible (even criminal) is that 80 percent of the sugarcane crop is grown in regions that are known to be water-deficient.

Look at the exploitation of water in another way.

As pointed out by Amit Bhardwaj, deputy head, Indian Sugar Mills Association in his presentation in October 2013, Maharashtra (read Marathwada) guzzles the maximum water per kg of sugar than other states in India. So you have a water-guzzling crop for which the state uses more water than other water-rich states, grown in areas that are known to be water-deficient.

In spite of this, there has been no policy-level change regarding sugarcane cultivation, no attempt to control water usage through proper charges for water consumption, or fiscal measures to shift sugarcane cultivation to areas other than water scarce regions. Interestingly, most of the state’s sugar mills are concentrated in the drought-prone areas of Solapur, Pune and Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Beed, Osmanabad, Parbhani and Latur.

Today, you have a piquant situation. The state is confronted with a Hobson’s choice. Sugar mills continue to get water, even though the general public remains water deprived. But the government dare not shut down the sugar mills, for fear that they will not pay the farmers for the cane. And the resultant unemployment from any planned closure of sugar mills, could mean more concentrated political headaches. So the government adopts the easiest route. Provide more drought relief to Marathwada, paid for by taxpayers, even while sugar barons make money on the water they use for producing sugar.


To understand these forces that have crushed the region under their weight, rendering land fallow, farmers desperate, industry crippled, entire villages parched and families suicidal, three Firstpost editors spent a fortnight travelling through the eight districts that comprise Marathwada, gathering data, anecdotes, interviews and documentary material. What follows is a 13-part account of one the most destructive droughts to blight the region, which Firstpost will run over the course of the next two weeks, beginning Thursday, 7 April.

Twisted logic? To remove gender bias, Trimbakeshwar temple bars men also from inner sanctum

The Trimbakeshwar Temple authorities on Sunday imposed a restriction on men’s entry too into the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Shiva shrine with an aim to provide “equal treatment” to both the genders, a trustee said.LIVE England vs West Indies final T20, ICC World T20The decision, which takes effect from tomorrow, comes in the wake of the Bombay High Court verdict giving women equal right to men with regard to entry into temples. It was decided this morning after a board meeting of the Trimbakeshwar Devasthan Trust under Chairperson and District Judge Urmila Phalke Joshi, Lalita Shinde, one of the trustees said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The meeting was attended by Secretary N M Nagare as well as Trust members Kailas Ghule, Yadavrao Tungar, Shrikant Gaidhani, and Sachindra Pachorkar. “The decision was taken to ensure equal treatment to both men and women,” Shinde said. The development comes a day after Bhumata Ranragini Brigade Trupti Desai and 25 other women activists were taken into preventive custody to stop them from entering into the inner sanctum of the famous Shani temple in Ahmednagar’s Shignapur village. They were later released.The ancient temple, located 30 kms from Nashik, is a major Lord Shiva shrine of the country, which has one of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’, drawing devotees from far and wide. According to Ghule, a member of the Trimbakeshwar Temple Trust, the ban on entry of women into the ‘garbhagriha’ is an age-old tradition and not something enforced in recent times. The ban goes back to the Peshwa period.As per tradition, only men were allowed entry daily between 6-7 AM into the area where the main ‘linga’ is placed, that too by putting on a specific gear called the sovala (silk clothing). Women, can, however have ‘darshan’ from outside the core area. Some priests in the temple town said most of the women devotees might not want to defy the tradition.Seeking to give a scientific dimension to the practice, they said there are certain rays that concentrate in the core area which could probably be harmful to the health of women.

At another Shani temple, Maha minister Pankaja Munde enters chauthara, offers prayers

Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde on Saturday offered prayers at a Shani temple in Ahmednagar district on a day when women activists were prevented by locals from venturing on to the sacred platform of the famous Shani Shingnapur temple.Rural Development Minister Munde went up on the ‘chauthara’ (platform) of the temple at Pathardi and offered oil to the idol. The daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde later tweeted about her visit to the temple.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thus far, women did not offer oil at the temple, said a local in Pathardi.The development comes a day after Bombay High Court directed the state government to take pro-active steps for ensuring compliance with the law for the prevention of discrimination against women vis-a-vis entry to places of worship.Earlier today at Shingnapur, which is also in the same district, activists led by Trupti Desai of the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade tried to enter the famous Shani temple and go up to the platform in the core area but were prevented from doing so by villagers.

Fight against discrimination against women in temples to go nationwide, says activist Trupti Desai

Bhumata Ranragini Brigade chief Trupti Desai, who has been spearheading the campaign for gender equality in temples, on Friday welcomed the Bombay High Court’s ruling that women can no longer be barred from entering temples in Maharashtra as it is their fundamental right. A jubilant Desai said they will take their campaign to other shrines across the country where such gender discrimination was practised routinely. “After this victory, we will take this fight to other temples in the country, where such restrictions are imposed on entry of women. We are now preparing to go to Shani Shingnapur temple (in Ahmednagar) tomorrow. We are sure that after the HC ruling, police will not restrict women and we will be allowed inside the sanctum,” she said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The members of the city-based outfit were seen distributing sweets among themselves after the HC verdict. “We will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urge him to enact a law to put an end to such restrictions on worshiping,” said Desai who was detained along with her members twice while marching towards Shingnapur and Trimbakeshwar temples. Desai said their fight was not restricted to Shani Shinganapur and Trimbakeshwar temples but with regard to every place of worship where women’s entry was banned. On the HC ruling being an outcome of a petition filed by social activist Vidya Bal, she said, “At the start of our agitation, we had clarified we will not go to the court. However, we had exhorted various like-minded people and organisations to take the legal recourse to augment the cause.” Desai claimed Bal had met her and appreciated their efforts to end the gender discrimination. “She told me if we are not ready to go the legal way, her (Bal’s) organisation will go to the court and now both have won the fight,” she said. In directions which are seen as a break from centuries-old traditions and a boost for women’s campaign against gender bias, the Bombay High Court today held it was the fundamental right of a woman and the government’s fundamental duty to protect their (women) rights.It asked the Maharashtra government to take pro-active steps to ensure this right was not allowed to be encroached upon by any authority.A division bench of Chief Justice D H Waghela and Justice M S Sonak gave the directions while hearing a public interest litigation by senior advocate Nilima Vartak and social activist Vidya Bal, challenging prohibition of entry of women in temples like Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra.

Bombay HC’s observations on Shani Shingnapur temple are a breath of fresh air, writes lawyer-activist

In the context of an atmosphere of intolerance in India, the Bombay High Court has refused to be tolerant of an archaic, absurd and arbitrary practice where women are not allowed to enter temples and observe religious traditions and rituals within the premises of religious buildings. The court, in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Vidya Bal and Nilima Varta, two activists from Pune, declared that no law prevents women from entering places of worship. The PIL challenges the archaic tradition that disbars the entry of women inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani Shingnapur temple in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra and claims that the prohibition is arbitrary, illegal and violative of the fundamental rights of a citizen, that the Constitution enshrines.

A division bench of Chief Justice DH Waghela and Justice MS Sonak invoked the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956 and said that under this act, if a temple or person prohibits any person from entering a temple, then he or she will be subjected to six-month imprisonment as punishment. The discriminatory practice is also violative of Article 14 (equality before law), 25 and 26 (freedom of religion) of the Constitution. The two judges remarked – “There is no law that prevents entry of women in any place. If you allow men, then you should allow women also. If a male can go and pray before the deity, why not women? It is the State government’s duty to protect the rights of women.”

The Shani temple in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Solaris imagesThe Shani temple in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Solaris images

The Shani temple in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Solaris images

The paradigm of women’s human rights has been trapped between the age-old universalist and cultural relativist dichotomy for a long time. While addressing various reservations that don’t allow women to exercise their human rights, it has been seen that cultural practices are identified as primary sites of struggle. Women’s human rights have remained contested terrains in the protracted polarities of tradition and modernity. In India where the woman form is worshipped as a pantheon of goddesses, most women between the ages of ten to fifty are not allowed to enter religious buildings. Many religious customs portray women in this age-group to be impure and unworthy for praying and observing rituals because of their menstrual cycles. The Bombay High Court has taken this custom and turned it around on its head, stating that women should have “equal access to places of worship” and that “women can go where men can”.

This progressive observation stretches like a bridge to form a nexus between constitutional freedoms and the religious customs, and in many ways, sets the stage for other ongoing conflicts between religious authorities and the law. On 5 April, 1991, a division bench of the Kerala High Court had upheld the prohibition of women offering worship at the Sabarimala shrine. The restriction was enforced under Rule 3 (b) of the Kerala Hindu Places of Public Worship (Authorisation of Entry) Rules, 1965 (women at such time during which they are not by custom and usage allowed to enter a place of public worship). The Kerala High Court had upheld the ban in 1991 and directed the Travancore Devaswom Board to implement it. Twenty-five years later, in January 2016, the Supreme Court has challenged the constitutional logic behind this 1500-year-old tradition, and asked for proof that would indicate that women did not enter the sanctum sanctorum 1500 years ago. The temple representatives have cited three arguments in favour of the restriction: the Constitution mandates that the belief of citizens must be protected; secondly, they speak of the notional ‘impurity’ of the menstruating women and thirdly, that it is not safe for women to take the strenuous pilgrimage to the shrine. These arguments are indicative of a patriarchal worldview where women are socially subordinate to men, and that religion and spirituality must be safeguarded from the polluting bodies of women.

The Bombay HC’s observations may only be an obiter dicta to the Supreme Court but its implications are vast. It is a breath of fresh air as it does not merely challenge the constitutionality of a law, but goes beyond its reach and endeavours to uproot a socio-religious custom that breeds gender inequality. The observations will also have an impact on the PIL by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan on the entry of women into the Haji Ali Dargah in Bombay, as it will be absurd to have two separate stance on temples and dargahs.

Unlike the American Constitution that explicitly vouches for the separation of the church from the state, the Indian Constitution combines freedom of religion clauses with a mandate that the state to intervene in religious affairs – Article 25 allows the state to restrict or regulate religious practices, thus, allowing for judicial responses to review customs or personal laws by the legislature. Our courts have a greater responsibility to apply rigorous standards of judicial scrutiny for removal of injustice against the women.

Why should only men be allowed to pray before a deity? Bombay HC backs plea to let women enter Shani Shingnapur temple

No law prevents women from entering a place of worship and if men were allowed, then women too should be permitted, the Bombay High Court observed on Wednesday while stating that any temple or person imposing such restriction could face a six month jail term under a Maharashtra law.

The observations were made by a division bench of Chief Justice DH Waghela and Justice MS Sonak during the hearing of a public interest litigation by senior advocate Nilima Vartak and activist Vidya Bal, challenging the prohibition of entry of women in the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

“There is no law that prevents entry of women in any place. If you allow men then you should allow women also. If a male can go and pray before the deity then why not women? It is the state government’s duty to protect the rights of women,” Chief Justice Waghela said on Wednesday.

Shani Shinganarpur temple. Image courtesy: shanishinganapur.comShani Shinganarpur temple. Image courtesy:

Shani Shinganarpur temple. Image courtesy:

“If it is the sanctity of the deity that you are worried about then let the government make such a statement. Under the Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956, if any temple or person prohibits any person from entering a temple then he or she faces a six-month imprisonment,” the court said.

The court also said that the government should give wide publicity to the Act and issue circulars, informing the general public at large about the Act and its provisions.

The court directed government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani to take instructions and make a statement on Friday (1 April), on whether or not it will ensure that women will be allowed to enter the temple.

The petition seeks the entry of women not just into the temple, but also inside its sanctum sanctorum.

The petition says that the prohibition is arbitrary, illegal and in violation of fundamental rights of citizens.

The Shani Shingnapur temple is located in the Shingnapur village in Ahmednagar. The unique open temple has no walls or roof. A self-emerged (svayambhu) five-foot-high black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shanidev.

The temple platform stands in the centre of the small village, also known as Sonai and attracts millions of tourists and devotees from across the country and abroad. However, barring the temple priests, no one is permitted to climb the nine steps up to the actual stone idol that represents the deity. Everybody must only offer prayers from below the platform, said a temple trustee Prafull N Surpuriya.

The Indian Express reports that only men who donate a certain amount of money can access the platform. Women however are not allowed even this privilege.

On 26 January, around 1,500 activists of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade threatened to storm the temple in order to protest this discrimination but were prevented from going to the village, nearly 100 kms away. The activists led by Trupti Desai, and joined by a few men, entered Ahmednagar district in a convoy of around 50 vehicles on their way to the temple, but were stopped by police near Supa.

After a brief argument and jostling with police, many women squatted or lay on the road shouting slogans condemning the police action and calling it a ‘Black Day’ on the occasion of India’s Republic Day when the constitution, granting equal rights to men and women, came into force.

Later, police detained a few of the activists, including Desai (she was later released) while the others vowed they would not leave the place without offering prayers at the temple’s sanctum sanctorum.

“The manner in which police behaved with us is objectionable… We were going peacefully to exercise our right of offering prayers… They are stopping us from going to a temple which is a place of worship. The country is celebrating Republic Day… for us it’s a ‘black day,’ but we will go to the temple,” Desai told media persons.

Their protest launched a nationwide debate with eminent personalities joining in. Art of Living (AoL) founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar suggested two models to overcome the centuries-old taboo. “The Shani temple committee can adopt the Kashi Vishwanath temple model where everyone is allowed to enter or the Tirupati model where only the priest is allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum,” he said in a statement.

The matter reached Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and he tweeted in support of the activists, saying, “Indian culture and Hindu religion gives women have the right to pray. A change in yesterday’s traditions is our culture. Discrimination in praying is not in our culture. The temple authorities should resolve the issue through a dialogue,” according to NDTV.

With inputs from agencies

Mumbaikars, brace up for hot and sweaty days

Even as the temperature in Mumbai came down on Thursday after spiking upto 38.2 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, the hottest day this summer so far, weathermen said that Mumbai will have to brace up for hot and sweaty days ahead.On Thursday, the maximum temperature at Santa Cruz was 33.5 degrees Celsius (humidity 60%), while at Colaba, it was 31.6 degrees Celsius (humidity 78%). In fact, the hottest day so far before Wednesday was on Sunday when the mercury level had touched 36.9 degrees Celsius.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>VK Rajeev, director of IMD, Mumbai, said, “The heat is the result of easterly winds from the land that results in increasing temperatures.””This week, particularly Wednesday, has been really hot and energy- sapping as temperatures seem to be soaring. Both Wednesday and Thursday were really hot and humid so much so that even playing Holi was not possible beyond a point,” complained Amit Rane, an Andheri resident.In fact, the situation across Maharashtra, too, seems to be worse as several places like Ahmednagar are reeling under 44.4 degrees Celsius this week and the heat wave is only going to continue in these regions.IMD officials said that while several areas of Marathwada and Vidharbha have started facing the heat wave already, Mumbai being a coastal city, the temperatures usually remain moderate during summer due to continuous flow of moist breeze from the sea, which is also the reason for the rising humidity.IMD officials said that March 28, 1956, has been the hottest day in March recorded so far, with a maximum temperature of 41.7 degrees Celsius. In March 2011, maximum temperature soared to 41.6 degrees Celsius, while in March 2015, it touched 40.8 degrees Celsius.

Security personnel assigned lax in their duty, says Anna Hazare

Social activist Anna Hazare, who has been given Z category security cover, today alleged that the security personnel assigned to him were lax in their duty.Asia Cup 2016 Live: India vs Bangladesh, Final T20 Cricket Scorecard & Ball by Ball CommentaryAt the same time, he said the government need not upgrade his security and that he won’t blame it if something untoward were to happen to him. Hazare also said it was not easy to support a retinue of nine bodyguards and 28 police personnel at Ralegan Siddhi village (in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district), which has a population of around 2,500 people. The activist said many a times, those tasked with his security aren’t there or come late when he is doing his morning yoga exercise.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”They are also engrossed in their mobile phones and busy chatting. They won’t even realise if someone were to walk in and kill me,” he said. “I faced death in Khemkaran sector during the Indo-Pak war. What I have got is a bonus. I will serve the country and society till I die,” said the former soldier in Indian Army.The anti-corruption crusader said increasing his security will put a financial burden on the state. “The financial situation of the state is poor and increasing my security will pose an additional financial burden on it,” Hazare said in a statement. Hazare’s statement comes amid several threat letters sent to him last year warning that he will be killed. The activist at present has ‘Z’ security.

Pink Book matters, not the railway budget speech

The railway minister’s budget speech might be the one that catches the nation’s eyeballs, but if old-time railway officials are to be believed, it’s the Pink Book one should look for.The Pink Book is the official register of the railways that lays down to the last rupee the money allotted for a project.”The railway budget speech has, over the years, become a political tool for the government to spread the goodies by way of announcements. While we get carried away by the announcements, the actual intent of the ministry is known when you see the Pink Book.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”For example, the minister might announce a project of Rs 2,000 crore, but by allotting just Rs 1 lakh for it in the Pink Book, he is signalling that the ministry isn’t too keen on the project,” said a former railway official.Sometimes it also signals that a particular project can be kept on the backburner for a little while. “Against a cost of Rs 57 crore to extend platform numbers 10, 11, 12 and 13 at CST to handle 24 coach trains, the allotment in the Pink Book for 2015-16 was a mere Rs 1 lakh. It means the work can wait,” said an official.The money allotted to Central Railway in the budget for 2015-16 (which was read out by railway minister Suresh Prabhu on February 26 last year) is a case in point.While the projects announced for Maharashtra was in the region of Rs 10,000 crore, the actual allotment for all activities of the CR, which dominates the state network, for the current financial year was Rs 2,493.9 crore.Same was the case with Western Railway, which got projects worth several thousand crore rupees but its net outlay from the budget was Rs 3,135 crore.On CR, one of the big allotments in the current financial year in the Pink Book was Rs 206.78 crore for the 467- km Pune-Miraj-Londa line doubling, which is expected to cost Rs 4,670 crore. The Rs 2,826 crore- Ahmednagar-Beed-Parli project got around Rs 125 crore for the current financial year.What Pink Book allotted for WR and CR for 2015-16:Activity Cost (WR) Cost (CR)New Line construction Rs 140 cr Rs 188 crGauge conversion Rs 608.6 cr Rs 1 croreDoubling of line Rs 933 cr Rs 266 crRolling stock Rs 13.48 cr Rs 18.11 crNet plan outlay Rs 3,135.8 cr Rs 2,493.9 cr

Activist Trupti Desai detained in Ahmednagar while on her way to Shani Shingnapur temple

Activist Trupti Desai, who has been protesting over the demand for entry of women into the Shani Shingnapur temple, was on Monday detained in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra while she was on her way to the temple.

Trupti Desai. IBNLive

Trupti Desai. IBNLive

Desai is the chief of Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, the women’s outfit spearheading the campaign against a centuries-old ban on female devotees entering the sacred platform at Shani Shingnapur temple.

She had also received an anonymous threat letter on 12 February warning her of dire consequences like those faced by Narendra Dabholkar. Dabholkar had been found murdered on 20 August 2013. He had steadfastly vouched for the passing of the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance in the Maharashtra Assembly.

The row over the temple began on 27 January when 350 women activists were stopped by police in a village 70 km from the Shani Shingnapur shrine as they tried to break the 400-year-old controversial tradition.

Eventually, the protest had intensified as the women refused to leave the area and said they will not leave the area until they are allowed inside the temple.

Desai had also urged the “young” chief minister to step in and take urgent measures to curb attempts and social mechanisms to suppress womens’ voice and their empowerment.

A day after that protest, Desai had met Devendra Fadnavis in Pune and presented a memorandum of demands seeking his support to end gender bias and unrestricted entry to women at the temple and all other sacred places in the state.

With agency inputs

Maharashtra rolls out red carpet for investors

This is one event that could well give Maharashtra government a kick-start in bringing in fresh global investments. And chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is pulling out all the stops to make the maximum out of the Make in India Week and market the state as an attractive investment destination.Aimed at reviving the country’s ailing manufacturing sector, the curtains for Make in India Week will go up in Mumbai on Saturday, and will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The country’s commercial capital is all decked up for the occasion and the state government officials and police are on their toes to secure the city and make the event – to be attended by the who’s who of governance and industry – a huge success. The first such mega event to be held in Maharashtra in recent years, the campaign will also seek infusion of investments in Mumbai, which is planned to be developed as an International Finance Centre (IFC), services and IT hub. The government is banking on its ease-of-doing business initiatives to serve as a magnet in wooing the investors.Cotton-growing regions like Marathwada and Vidarbha, which are known for agrarian distress, will be offered as destinations for the textile industry with the availability of land on the various nodes to be developed under the ambitious Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) attracting investors.Breaking from convention, where states pitch themselves as investment destinations, the government is keen that industries, which have invested in Maharashtra, speak to potential investors about their experience. “We are confident that huge investments will come to Maharashtra in all fields,” state chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya told dna, adding that a good response in industry and textiles is expected with the government approving the cotton-to-cloth policy.“A lot of investment is expected in Mumbai, where we will be showcasing areas and sectors in which investments can be made,” he said, listing gaming and animation, and financial services as some of these verticals. “Mumbai’s strong points are urban infrastructure, financial services. We want Mumbai to be an international financial services centre… and develop it as a media exchange hub, centre for film studios, gaming, animation. Mumbai has the best environment for investments,” noted Kshatriya. “It has a young population which is educated and cosmopolitan, and is one of the safest cities. We are saying that Mumbai offers a holistic environment in which you can live,” he said.Stating that the government has announced 12 textile parks and will announce 10 more this week, Kshatriya said that these would be spread out across all regions where cotton was grown like Marathwada, Vidarbha and Khandesh. “We are expecting a very good response to the DMIC nodes. One DMIC node is at Shendra- Bidkin where around 4,000 hectare land is available for industrial development… the second is at Dighi port, with 1,100 hectare land and the third at the Integrated Industrial Park at Supa in Ahmednagar. The state also has MIHAN (Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur),” he said.A series of seminars to pitch Maharashtra and Mumbai as investment destinations, and to showcase start-ups and investment opportunities in industrial corridors like DMIC and the textile sector will be held. While the Maharashtra night at Chowpatty will see Bollywood’s biggies in attendance, the Gateway of India will witness a performance by the Navy band.The flip sideThough Maharashtra had attracted huge number of investment proposals, the actual realisation has been lower. According to the Economic Survey of Maharashtra 2014-15, from August 1991 to March 2012, a total of 4,246 FDI projects (of 20,643 in the country) amounting to Rs 97,799 crore (as against Rs 4,25,811 crore in the country) were approved. Of these, only 45% were commissioned and 10% are still under execution with a share of investment of 51% and 8% respectively.

Shani temple row: Women activists, district admin agree to abide by CM Devendra Fadnavis’ decision

Trupti Desai from the Bhumata Brigade which has been demanding entry inside the Shani Shingnapur temple has said that her group and the district administration have agreed to abide by Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis’ decision on the matter. “We’ll be meeting Maharashtra CM on Monday or Tuesday and ask him to take a decision soon. Whatever he decides, we will go with it, other parties on the issue have also agreed to it,” she added. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Desai said that she is hopeful of a positive outcome. “It was a positive interaction. We believe that women will soon be allowed inside the temple,” she said.In a bid to end the deadlock over allowing women to enter the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra, the District Administration of Ahmednagar called for a meeting on Saturday between protestors and the temple management. The Ahmednagar District Collectorate has reportedly written a letter to Bhumata Brigade, inviting them to discuss the centuries-old ban on female devotees entering the sacred platform, with the shrine authorities. Bhumata Brigade’s Trupti Desai, who is leading the protests, had said that temple authorities are dominating in the name of old traditions. “Temple authorities are dominating in name of old traditions but there is no such tradition that keeps women out of the temple,” said Desai.Women members and supporters of the Bhumata Brigade arrived from Pune on January 29 in six buses with an aim to enter the temple’s sanctum sanctorum where the idol of Lord Shani is placed on an open-air platform. However, the group led by Trupti was stopped from marching towards the temple by police near Supa. They were also detained by police for some time, but released later. After being stopped by the police, Trupti said it was a “black day” for women as they were being stopped from exercising their rights.The temple drew attention in November 2015 after a woman had offered prayers at the popular shrine in “breach” of the age-old practice that prohibits entry of women, after which the temple committee had to suspend seven security men and the villagers performed purification rituals. The temple attracts millions of tourists and devotees from across the country and abroad.

After Murud tragedy, Pune education dept bans tours to beaches, rivers, lakes and hills

Pune: In the wake of the Murud beach tragedy that claimed 14 lives, the Pune education department has banned educational tours to beaches, rivers, lakes and hills.

Representational image. Image courtesy: Google mapsRepresentational image. Image courtesy: Google maps

Representational image. Image courtesy: Google maps

The office of Deputy Director (Education) of the region today issued a circular in this regard. Also, no permission will be granted for such trips outside Maharashtra.

“In the wake of the tragic incident in Murud, we have issued a circular in which schools and junior colleges have been instructed not to take educational tours to risky and dangerous places like beaches, rivers, lakes and hills,” the circular read.

“If tours are being organised, adequate teachers should be accompanying students,” said Ramchandra Jadhav, Deputy Director (Education), Pune region, which comprises Pune, Ahmednagar and Solapur districts.

Also, permission would not be granted for educational tours out of the state, he said, adding “consent letters from parents have been made a must”.

Schools and junior colleges undertaking excursion tours will have to submit an affidavit on stamp paper, Mr Jadhav said.

The measures come days after 14 students of the city-based Abeda Inamdar College drowned off Murud beach in Raigad district during a picnic on Monday.


Shani temple row: Women activists and temple authorities called for talks tomorrow

Leader of a women’s organisation, that led a high-voltage stir against gender bias at Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar, and the shrine authorities have been called on Saturday by the district authorities to discuss the centuries-old ban on female devotees entering the sacred platform.”We have received a letter from Ahmednagar District Collectorate in which they have asked us to be present on February 6 for discussions over the issue of allowing women inside the Lord Shani temple,” Bhumata Brigade leader Trupti Desai said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The temple authorities too have been called for deliberations tomorrow after the womens’ group brought their fight to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for lifting of the ban and submitted a memorandum of demands last week seeking his support to end gender bias and unrestricted entry to women at the temple and all other sacred places in the state.”We too have been called for discussions tomorrow,” said Dayaram Bankar, one of the trustees.On January 26, at least 400 women volunteers, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai made an unsuccessful attempt to storm the ‘chauthara’ (sacred platform) of the temple when police stopped the marchers at Supa village, 70 kms from the shrine.The marchers were detained there for a few hours before being released and sent back to Pune on buses. The women protested against the police action and raised slogans. They had even laid down on the road, crying “it is a black day for women on Republic Day”.As a showdown erupted, Fadnavis had favoured a dialogue between temple authorities and activists to find a way out over the ban on entry of women into the inner sanctum of the shrine, maintaining that women have a right to pray.”Indian culture and Hindu religion gives women the right to pray. A change in yesterday’s traditions is our culture. Discrimination in praying is not in our culture. The temple authorities should resolve the issue through dialogue,” Fadnavis had tweeted.Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde too had said the government will facilitate talks between the temple authorities and women activists to arrive at an amicable solution.The campaign had garnered support from various political and social quarters besides spiritual gurus across the country, with Congress saying that it is the “pious duty” of whole society to support such a move.”This is also the responsibility of the government so that reason prevails over those people who are creating hurdles and problems in this direction,” party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi had said.The shrine is dedicated to Lord Shani, who personifies the planet Saturn in Hindu belief. Women devotees are not permitted on the ‘chauthara’ (sacred platform) as per the tradition followed at the shrine. It has no walls or a roof. A five-foot-high black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shani.Last year, a bid by the women’s organisation to break the security cordon and enter the prohibited area of the temple was foiled on December 20 by security guards of the Shani Shingnapur Trust. In Mumbai, a Muslim women’s rights group is locked in a legal battle with trustees of the Haji Ali dargah, which has barred women’s entry into mosque’s mausoleum.A petition challenging the Haji Ali Trust’s decision to ban the entry of women in the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah (grave of a male Muslim saint) is pending before the Bombay High Court, which now sought the state’s opinion on the matter.Earlier, it said it would wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling on entry of women in Sabarimala temple of Kerala before deciding on the plea related to the dargah.At Sabarimala, which attracts millions of devotees during the peak pilgrim season in November to January, women of menstrual age are not allowed to go up the holy hillock and worship. A few years back, a huge controversy erupted after a Kannada film actress claimed that she had worshipped at the hill shrine in the prime of her youth.

Shani Shingnapur controversy: Activists’ group Bhoomata Brigade submits memorandum to CM Fadnavis

Pune: The women’s outfit spearheading the campaign against a centuries-old ban on female devotees entering the sacred platform at Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra on Wednesday brought their fight to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for lifting of the restrictions.

A day after police foiled the attempt by 400 women activists to barge into the famous temple in Ahmednagar district as part of their high-voltage stir, Bhoomata Brigade leader Trupti Desai met Fadnavis in Pune and presented a memorandum of demands seeking his support to end gender bias and unrestricted entry to women at the temple and all other sacred places in the state.

The meeting with Fadnavis took place on the sidelines of a function in Pune even as the Gram Sabha at the village where the shrine is located passed a resolution condemning Desai and her volunteers for attempts to storm the ‘Chauthara” (sacred platform). The plan was foiled when police stopped the marchers at Supa village, 70 km away from the shrine. The activists were released after being detained for a few hours.

Fadnavis, who on Tuesday favoured a dialogue on the issue in the wake of a tense showdown, did not make any comment on the set of demands before leaving the venue.

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. PTIMaharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. PTI

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis in a file photo. PTI

Desai, however, told reporters that Fadnavis favourably responded to the demand as he accepted the memorandum with a positive assurance. She also suggested he visit the temple along with his wife to strengthen the women’s cause.

Over 400 women, mainly hailing from Pune, led by Desai had launched a protest against the tradition of not allowing women at the inner platform (chauthara) of the temple where only men are permitted to make offerings to the deity (Shani).

Fadnavis on Tuesday favoured a dialogue between temple authorities and activists to find a way out over the ban on entry of women into the inner sanctum of the shrine, maintaining that women have a right to pray.

“Indian culture and Hindu religion gives women have the right to pray. A change in yesterday’s traditions is our culture. Discrimination in praying is not in our culture. The temple authorities should resolve the issue through a dialogue,” Fadnavis, who also holds Home portfolio, had said.

Congress backed the campaign, saying that it is the “pious duty” of whole society to support such a move.

“This is also the responsibility of the government so that reason prevails over those people who are creating hurdles and problems in this direction,” party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in New Delhi.

“I commend the move of one of the women’s organisations of Maharashtra asserting their right of worship at Shani Shingnapur.

“Women have got equal rights in the field of religion and philosophy in our country for centuries. Doors of knowledge and religion should be open to everyone without any discrimination,” he said.

MRCC president Sanjay Nirupam said he supports women’s agitation for equal rights at the Shani temple.

“I am of the belief that women should be allowed equal rights at all temples,” he said, adding, “Respecting women is our core value. They must be allowed in Shani Shingnapur temple.”

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan opposed the ban, saying his party has always been against any discrimination in public places on the basis of caste, religion and sex.

“LJP opposes the ban on women worshipping at Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district. LJP has from the very beginning of its existence been opposing any discrimination in public places on the basis of caste, religion or sex,” Paswan said on Twitter.

Paswan heads Lok Janshakti Party, a key ally of NDA in Bihar.

The shrine is dedicated to Lord Shani, who personifies the planet Saturn in Hindu belief. Women devotees are not permitted on the ‘chauthara’ as per the tradition followed at the shrine.

The shrine has no walls or a roof. A five-foot black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shani.

A bid by the women’s organisation to enter the prohibited area of the temple was foiled on 20 December, 2015 by security guards of the Shani Shingnapur Trust.

The Charity Commissioner’s office had imposed restrictions on the proposed campaign fearing damage to property.


Sexism masquerades as religion? Women activists barred from entering Shani Shingnapur temple

A group of women from Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, an organisation for women, was stopped from entering the Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra on Tuesday. The women were trying to enter the temple and end the practice of not allowing women to enter the inner sanctum of the shrine.

Screenshot from IBNLive video

Screenshot from IBNLive video

The 350 women activists were stopped by police in a village 70 km from the shrine as they tried to break a 400-year-old tradition banning women from entering its sacred sanctum.

The activists were also detained by the police but were released later on, reported PTI.

The moment the buses of activists under the banner of Bhumata Brigade reached Supa village, the volunteers led by its President Trupti Desai were disallowed from moving forward by scores of police personnel, who formed a ring to foil their march towards the famous temple.

“Today is a black day for women,” Desai told Times Now as the protesters were stopped from entering the temple by the police. “The police are telling us we cannot go forward, but we will go forward,” she further said. She also demanded to know why women were being discriminated against.

“This is brazen violation of the constitutional rights of women…We want to know from Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) why we have been stopped.. We will move ahead,” Desai asserted.

In a tense showdown, the activists vehemently protested against the police action and raised slogans and lay down on the road, screaming “it is a black day for women on the Republic Day.”

“Police has stopped around 350 women at Supa and necessary action will be taken against them,” Additional Superintendent of Police, Pankaj Deshmukh told PTI.

Desai later also claimed that some women had, in fact, entered the temple.

Eventually, the protest intensified as the women refused to leave the area and said they will not leave the area until they are allowed inside the temple.

An angry Desai said she will do satyagraha and go on a hunger strike to protest against this ridiculous practice. “I will not even drink water,” she said.

Squatting and lying on the highway along with other campaigners, she alleged that they were “manhandled” by the police personnel.

She urged the “young” Chief Minister to step in and take urgent measures to curb attempts and social mechanisms to suppress womens’ voice and their empowerment.

“Why is this clash of egos even taking place? We are asking for our basic right to do darshan,” said another protester.

Bhumata Ranragini Brigade had on Monday threatened to storm the famous Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar — if need be, from the sky route even via a helicopter.

“We have already booked a helicopter and if we are not permitted to enter from the open ground, we shall drop ladders from the chopper and climb down. We are not scared of any security since women’s rights are concerned,” Desai had told IANS on Monday.

She had said around 1,500 women from all over Maharashtra shall troop down to the temple on Tuesday morning and offer prayers at the temple which is dedicated to Lord Shani and where women devotees are not permitted.

The unique open temple has no walls or roof. A self-emerged five-foot high black stone stands on a platform and is worshipped as Lord Shani.

The temple platform stands in the centre of the small village, also known as Sonai and attracts millions of tourists and devotees from across the country and abroad.

With agency inputs

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