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Maratha reservation: Silent morcha in Nagpur sees a low turnout of 15,000 people

The poor turnout for the silent Maratha morcha in Nagpur on Wednesday failed to meet the expectations of its organisers.

While the previous marches generated massive responses with participants running in lakhs, the first march after demonetisation drew around only 15,000 people that according to organiser Sakal Maratha Samaj’s claims should have drawn 2.5 million, according to a report by Livemint.

Marathas are politically and numerically the strong community in the state, whose votes can swing the political fortunes of parties. The decision of the previous Congress-NCP government to provide 16 percent quota in government jobs and education to Marathas was put on hold by the Bombay High Court. The blame-game is on between the ruling and Opposition parties over the responsibility of the same.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Earlier touted as a historic march for having MLAs and MLCs from all parties united to participate and at a time corresponding with the Winter Session of the state legislature which is underway at present, the ‘mook’ morcha was organised in the state’s second capital in Nagpur for the reservation demands of seeking 16 percent reservation in government jobs and educational institutes, and to secure capital punishment for the rapists of a teenage girl in Ahmednagar district, and also the amendments to the SC/ST Atrocity (Prevention) Act, which they allege is being misused to target the community.

The march started at Yashwant Stadium in south Nagpur in noon and terminated near Vidhan Bhawan (legislature complex) after passing the main streets in Sitabuldi area. A string of politicians across party lines, including legislators, participated in the march that culminated into a rally at T-Point near Assembly Hall where the Winter Session is in progress. From the government, Revenue Minister Chandrakantdada Patil and Parliament Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde reached the venue, where they were apprised of the demands raised by Maratha community by the morcha organiser Madhukar Meherkar. The prominent legislators who participated include Ashish Shelar, Ashish Deshmukh (both BJP), Bharat Gogavale (Shiv Sena), Bhai Jagtap (Congress) and Vidya Chavan (NCP). BJP Rajya Sabha MP and a descendant of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji, Sambhaji Raje Bhosale, also joined the march.

The Maratha protests were low-profile for quite some time after demonetisation and first phase of local municipal bodies polls. In fact, funding for the march which involves arranging for transport and refreshments among other things, post demonistisation of higher currency notes was deemed to be one of the biggest problems, according to Mumbai Mirror.

But this may not be the only reason for the lukewarm response. The Livemint report quotes a BJP legislator as saying that Vidarbha is dominated more by OBCs and Kunbis who are apathetic to the Maratha demands. He went on to say that to involve them the march had even been renamed as Maratha-Kunbi Kranti Morcha.

Towards the end of the march, a delegation of five young girls called on Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, according to a report by The Times of India, making it the first time that the Marathas presented a memorandum directly to the CM, departing from the practice of handing it over to district collectors.

The chief minister has promised that his government will set up a high-profile panel to look into the issues raised by the Maratha community. The proposed panel will have experts and intellectuals to study the issues raised by the community and the services of retired higher and lower court judges from the community, professors and other intellectuals will be availed for preparing a detailed report.

A suggestion in this regard was made by  Vinod Tawde and Chandrakant Patil said the panel may include 10 or more members and will meet in Mumbai soon. Fadnavis said the issue of reservation for Marathas is pending before court and the government has roped in top lawyer Harish Salve to fight the case.

The government recently filed a 2500-page affidavit before the Bombay High Court, supporting the demand for 16 percent reservation for the community in jobs and education. Referring to the affidavit, the chief minister said he himself gave the final touch to it and it may come up for hearing on 30 December.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 11:59 IST

Eknath Khadse out? His fate rests firmly in Devendra Fadnavis’ hands

Eknath Khadse, a prominent leader of the BJP in Maharashtra and the number two in cabinet, will lose his ministry following repeated allegations of corruption and his alleged telephonic conversation with fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim. Party sources confirmed that after a series of allegations against senior most minister about corruption Khadse may loose his berth in cabinet or an important portfolio like the Revenue Ministry.

Meanwhile Khadse met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday evening for around 40 minutes. Fadnavis has come out in support of Khadse in the past, but it appears the MIDC land case might be a little different. The internal meeting saw the minister being questioned on “why he was interested in seeking land marked for the MIDC”, according to a party insider.

The details of the meet have not been disclosed yet, but party insiders said that of the 12 departments Khadse heads, the most prominent one and the one he is most likely to lose is the revenue department. A decision is to be taken after the Rajya Sabha and Council election which is to be held on 10 June.

Among the latest of the corruption allegations against Khadse is the complaint filed by builder Hemant Gawande against the revenue minister, his wife Mandakini and son-in-law Girish Chaudhari, alleging that they bought a three-acre plot of MIDC land in Bhosari for a mere Rs 3.75 crore. Speaking to mediapersons in Pune, Gawande said, “The land was sold to Khadse in his wife and son-in-law’s name by one Abbas Ukani for Rs 3.75 crore. However, the actual value of the land is more than Rs 80 crore higher than that value.” He added, “”I waited for MIDC officials to take action against Khadse. But, since there was no action from any government agency, I decided to approach the police and filed a complaint at Bund Garden police station on Monday.”

File image of Eknath Khadse. PTI

File image of Eknath Khadse. PTI

Khadse, on his part, dismissed all the allegations saying, “The land at Bhosari MIDC is not in the hands of the MIDC. It belonged to a private owner and I have all the records in possession to show that the land is a private plot and not owned by government. Gawande is making all these baseless allegations. I am open to any inquiry and the police should carry out a thorough investigation in this case.” Far from being cowed down, he added, “I am not going to fall prey to these blackmailers’ tactics. I feel that a thorough probe should be carried out by the police in the present case.”

But that’s not all. There’s also the matter of the multi-crore irrigation scam in which Khadse also finds himself embroiled.

Social worker Anjali Damania — who has alleged that contracts given by the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation (TIDC) are given to contractors that are close to him — said that she will be handing over all documents to the Anti-Corruption Bureau that is investigating the irrigation scam. She said that projects that are unfeasible and not required have all been allotted to contractors that are patronised by Khadse. Explaining the modus operandi on how the Khadse family receives kickbacks from these contractors, Damania said that the sugar company in which Khadse, his wife, his daughter Rohini and son-in-law Pranjal Khewalkar are all directors, was owned by two contractors who have received several contracts from the TIDC.

She has also demanded that Fadnavis launch an immediate inquiry against Khadse. “We will give Fadnavis 48 hours to take action on the corrupt minister, otherwise we will stage a protest outside his official residence, the Varsha bungalow, on Wednesday,” Damania told Firstpost, adding, “We are also following the case of Khadse’s son-in-law’s Hyundai Sonata vehicle that is not registered in the state.”

The BJP has so far, been countering Damania’s allegation, with state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari saying, “These are mere allegations and are baseless.”

The Opposition in the state (including the Congress and NCP) has meanwhile demanded that Khadse be sacked. The BJP’s own ally, the Shiv Sena has also been sending out feelers that Khadse be sacked, with industry minister and Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai asking for a detailed inquiry into the land-grabbing case.

Khadse’s woes, however, don’t end with corruption allegations.

The Aam Aadmi Party had recently demanded the ouster of Khadse, alleging that calls were made from Dawood’s residence in Karachi to the revenue minister’s mobile phone — a charge Khadse had rubbished as “baseless”, adding that the phone number had not been in use for the past year.

What next?

Like the Opposition, alliance-members and party office-bearers also want Khadse’s removal, said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity. But in Maharashtra, it appears caste politics are pressurising Fadnavis against taking action. Fadnavis is from the Brahmin community, while Khadse belongs to the Levedar Patil community, which is part of the OBC list. After Gopinath Munde’s death, there is no senior OBC leader like Khadse in the party. While in the past, Maratha strongman and education minister Vinod Tawde and another OBC face Pankaja Munde Palwe also faced corruption allegations, they were both in the race to become chief minister.

But within a year, there have been corruption allegations against both of them as also against Khadse, said party insiders.

Khadse’s alleged involvement in these cases has put the BJP in a tricky position. Despite the party’s image in the state taking a beating over Khadse’s involvement, reports had earlier said that CM Fadnavis will be reluctant to act against the revenue minister because the controversial minister is a Jalgaon strongman and enjoys a support base in the district.

According to a source in Delhi, BJP president Amit Shah was believed to have sent an indirect message to Khadse to remain quiet and desist from making statements to the media. Also, he is believed to have said that Fadnavis should take action on the allegations against Khadse. Sources also confirms that till Fadnavis takes action against Khadse, cabinet extension will not be green-lit by the party.

The fate of Khadse is in Fadnavis’ hands.

Will he expelled from the cabinet or merely relieved of some key portfolios like Revenue and Excise?

Wait and watch.

For now, as per his schedule for Tuesday, Khadse will not be attending cabinet at 11 am at Mantralaya. Instead, he will be in his constituency of Muktainagar, Jalgaon for the entire day.

With inputs from PTI

Mumbai to have three more medical colleges

There’s good news for those aspiring to be doctors. The state medical education department has decided to set up three medical colleges in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).Sources said that two of these colleges will be in Wadala and Alibaug. The third one will be in the suburbs, but it yet to be confirmed where. Currently, there are 18 medical colleges across the state.The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) will construct the three colleges. Medical education minister Vinod Tawde confirmed the development to dna.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”MbPT already has a hospital at its Wadala campus. They are going to build a new hospital-cum-medical college. JNPT and ONGC will soon start the formalities.”Currently, there are 46 institutes for MBBS in Maharashtra at the state, civic, private and deemed university levels and there are 6,195 seats. For MD/MS, there are 44 institutes and 2,713 seats.The Union government-run MbPT, which already has a 260-bed hospital on its Wadala campus, has set aside Rs 1,000 crore and 11.5 acres for the new project. What it is planning is a 950-bed hospital to replace the existing one, which will be demolished later.Dr Jayesh Lele, president, Indian Medical Association, Maharashtra branch, said: “It’s a great move to start a medical college and hospital in MMR, and this will definitely help people.”

dna Impact: Maharashtra govt ignores definition of kin, saves 3 lives

Maharashtra government’s decision to forget the legal definition of who is a ‘close relative’ is going to save three lives.For nine months, a 62-year-old man had wanted to donate his kidney to his 45-year-old niece, under what is called a domino transplant.But the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA), 1994, under which kidney transplants are performed in India, insists that donors and recipients should be close relatives. This Act doesn’t recognise a maternal uncle and niece as close relatives.In this case, the transplant covered three persons. dna is withholding the names of the three to protect their identities.When several meetings with state authorisation committee officials, who give the go-ahead for domino transplants, did not yield results, relatives of the patients approached Governor C Vidyasagar Rao.dna had published a series of articles, starting from April 4, 2015, highlighting their case. The last report was published on November 8, 2015.With the government nod, the transplant will now take place in the third week of January.Of the three surgeries, two will be done at PD Hinduja hospital and one at Bombay hospital. Hinduja hospital nephrologist Dr Jatin Kothari, who is part of the transplant, said: “The two previous domino transplants were hugely successful. Their success has set a precedent. It encourages people to opt for the transplant as it reduces waiting time.””Great thanks to Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and minister of medical education Vinod Tawde, who all took keen interest in the case. This is the third time we will be performing a domino transplant,” he said.”All three transplants will be conducted the same day. About 20-24 doctors will perform the transplant in six operation theatres,” he said.The previous domino transplant, consisting of six donors and six recipients, was held on January 25, 2014, in Mumbai.Talking to dna, Tawde said: “We carefully examined the case to see that there is no exploitation and everyone benefits. On humanitarian grounds, we granted permission as it will save three lives. In future, if such cases come to us, definitely we will look at them positively. The law cannot be above human life.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>