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Farmer death: NCP accuses minister Rawal of dubious land

The NCP accused Maharashtra’s tourism minister of using his “political influence” to get a meeting between his Cabinet colleague and a farmer cancelled, which he claimed, prompted the 84-year-old man to consume a poisonous chemical which resulted in his death.

Dharma Patil died on Sunday night at the JJ Hospital after consuming a poisonous chemical at the Maharashtra secretariat here on January 22.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik claimed that the cancellation of that meeting was the trigger for the farmer taking the extreme step.

Malik also alleged that Maharashtra Tourism Minister Jayakumar Rawal and his family members bought lands in advance from farmers at lower rates in Dhule district ahead of their acquisition by the state government for higher compensation.

He alleged that some “fake” companies are operational in Dhule district that buy land for Rawal.

Rawal, who represents the Sindkheda constituency in Dhule district, of which the deceased farmer was a resident, has denied the charges.

“State Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal had used his political influence and asked Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule to cancel the meeting between Dharma Patil and officials from state power ministry. That was the trigger which led Patil to consume a poisonous chemical on January 22,” Malik told reporters here.

Patil had alleged that the state government offered low returns while acquiring his land for a solar power plant in north Maharashtra district.

“Rawal and his family are known for buying such lands in advance from farmers at lower rates and then letting them acquired by the state for higher compensation. There are some fake companies that have been buying land for Rawal in Dhule district,” Malik said.

The NCP leader said that the state officials had scheduled a meeting between Patil and Bawankule on January 22 for which the farmer had travelled all the way from Dhule to Mumbai.

“After listening to Patil’s complaint, the state officials had called for a meeting, for which the 84-year-old farmer had travelled from Dhule to Mumbai. After reaching here, he (Patil) was told that the meeting was cancelled. It was Rawal who made Bawankule cancel that meeting,” Malik claimed.

He alleged that Rawal was “misusing” his power and position for a long time.

“The minister’s accomplices had purchased several acres of land already. They were waiting to buy Patil’s land, but he raised the complaint before the state authorities for higher compensation,” the NCP leader said.

Rawal alleged that the erstwhile Congress-NCP government was responsible for meting out “injustice” to the deceased farmer.

“I was an MLA from Dhule (in 2012) and when the land acquisition procedure (for the proposed plant) commenced, I had demanded a base price of Rs 10 lakh per hectare. Though the proposed land was rain-fed, the state government then offered Rs 2 lakh as the acquisition cost, which was very low,” Rawal claimed.

The minister said he had all the documents that “establish” the entire procedure of land acquisition during the Congress-NCP rule.

“If leaders of the Congress and NCP are blaming the procedure for injustice to Dharma Patil, then the blame lies with them. They are more responsible for this kind of injustice to Dharma Patil,” Rawal said.

The minister said he welcomed the demand of the Congress and NCP for a police action against those responsible for Patil’s plight.

“I am sure, they (Congress-NCP leaders) will be the one who will face action at the end. In the year 2012, we were told that if we do not cooperate with authorities for land acquisition, the state authorities would initiate the procedure for compulsory acquisition of land,” Rawal said.

If the state government invokes the compulsory (land) acquisition clause, then land owners will have to accept the rate offered by the state.

“Hence, everyone was protesting against the land acquisition,” he said.

Meanwhile, a government official said on the condition of anonymity that the first proposal for acquiring Patil’s land was made on May 8, 2009 when the Congress-led UPA government was in power.

In April 2014, before the BJP-led government came to power in Maharashtra, the process of hearing of objections was concluded and the compensation was duly accepted by Patil, the official claimed.

There was no legal challenge over the amount, he added.

Under the Land Acquisition Act, the government cannot change the compensation amount once it is accepted by the affected person, he said.

The owners of two plots adjacent to Patil’s land were awarded Rs 4,34,720 and Rs 4,40,440 in compensation, the official added.

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