first_imgYavatmal: The spate of farmers’ deaths, after spraying toxic pesticides on the genetically modified cotton crop, began towards the end of July this year in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, however, it took almost two months for the government, the media, and political parties to notice the gravity of the situation.Hundreds of farmers got admitted to various hospitals in the district since July-end, but it was only when the death toll reached double digits in September that the administration swung into action and the media began reporting the issue after the Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swawalamban Mission (the Maharashtra government’s Taskforce to reduce farm distress) started circulating press notes to journalists based in Nagpur.The first politician to visit the district was BJP MP from Bhandara-Gondia constituency Nana Patole, who interacted with the ailing farmers admitted to the Government Medical College.Ignored by allAs English newspapers began carrying the reports of the farmers’ deaths prominently, the state government sent its minister of state for agriculture Sadabhau Khot to the district.Mr. Khot was followed by Shiv Sena leader and state transport minister Diwakar Raote, and senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radha Krishna Vikhe Patil.The main opposition parties the Congress and the NCP are still to organise any visible protest and even the Shiv Sena, which has lately been more of an opposition in the state than a coalition partner of the ruling BJP, has remained a mute spectator to the death of the farmers.When this reporter posed some questions to Mr. Vikhe Patil on the Congress party’s “lack of interest and action” even after so many deaths, the leader of opposition had no convincing answers and tried to divert the question by blaming the Shiv Sena and Mr. Patole’s “dual stand”.Until 2014 Assembly elections, Congress had dominated the district’s politics with three senior leaders — Shivajirao Moghe, Manikrao Thakere, and Vasant Purke — holding the posts of cabinet ministers and top party positions during the Congress-NCP’s 15-year rule in the state.However, all these leaders are currently missing. “We don’t have a district chief. We will launch a protest in a couple of days once he is appointed,” was Mr. Purke’s response on the Congress’s silence.Yavatmal has been the centre of farm crisis and is also infamous as “farmers’ suicide capital”, but the only organisation vocal about the issue was the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti. However, many say that after Kishore Tiwari’s appointment as the head of the VNSSM, the ground level protests of his groups are negligible.The only political person, who is raising the issue with some fervour, is the disgruntled Congressman Devanand Pawar.A politician from a backward Banjara community who once contested Assembly elections on a Congress ticket, Mr. Pawar formed his own Shetkari Nyaya Hakka Andolan Samiti (Committee to fight for the just rights of farmers) after he was sidelined in the Congress by senior leaders.When asked about the reason for cold political response to this issue, Mr. Pawar said, “The political leaders and party workers in Yavatmal had only been accompanying the leaders to the hospitals. They are not going there to visit the ailing farmers. A strong political protest would have definitely helped the farmers’ cause but even the Congress is struggling with its own problems which is why I had to fight under a different banner. The affected farmers and their families are still to receive the help announced by the government. Had it not been for the media, the deaths would have gone unnoticed.”When Mr. Pawar and some farmers confronted the Agriculture Minister Pandurang Phundkar in Monoli village last week, the BJP leader and Yavatmal’s guardian minister Madan Yerwar asked the agriculture minister to “ignore it”.When asked about Shiv Sena’s lack of response to the issue, the district president Santosh Dhawle informed that they acted “as per the program” and were “busy” providing medical help to the farmers.“The government took a long time to accept the crisis. The opposition parties are invisible. Our district has really been unlucky,” rued Ramdas Wadai, a contract farmer from Sakhra village of the district.last_img

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