As the year 2015 comes to a close we look at some political news that grabbed headlines in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena formally joined the BJP government in the state but both the parties shared a love-hate relationship as each one of them tried to outdo the other. Sena has been openly expressing its displeasure about the functioning of the BJP government in the state which created turmoil in the relationship between both the parties.
Rising Farmer suicides
Maharashtra witnessed severe drought due to poor monsoon. The farmer suicide count in the six-month span from January to June this year stood at 1,300 cases, the state’s revenue department figures show. So in just six months this year, the farmer suicide toll touched 66% of the 1,981 cases recorded in the entire year of 2014. The figure has also crossed the 1,296 cases recorded in the state during the 12-month span of 2013. Data on farmer suicides in the state from the National Crime Records Bureau has always been much higher. The bureau has also consistently reported that Maharashtra has the highest number of farmer suicides in the country.
Significantly, only 55% of the suicides recorded by the revenue department so far have been declared eligible for compensation. To be considered an “eligible suicide”, the land has to be in the victim’s name and there should be evidence of indebtedness. The government claims only these cases are linked to agrarian distress.
Significantly, the cotton belt of Vidarbha—from where Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hails—continued to report the highest number of farmer suicides. As many as 671 cases are from this region. This accounts for slightly more than half the number of farmer suicides so far. The arid region of Marathwada recorded 438 cases till June, accounting for 34% of the total cases. The north Maharashtra belt has recorded 158 cases. The sugar bowl of western Maharashtra accounted for 32 cases while the Konkan region has reported only one case.
Celebrities’ foot-in-mouth moments
Controversies have always been a second name for Mumbai Film Industry. Every now and then we have seen how a celebrity says something and invites trouble over his statement. Likewise, the year 2015 too had its share of controversies surrounding many A-listed celebs.
Salman Khan’s court verdict to his tweet on Yakub Memon invited unwanted trouble after he tweeted about the death penalty of 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon. The actor was attacked by several politicians for his tweet, which was against Memon’s death penalty.
On the other hand, Shahrukh Khan found himself in the midst of this boiling controversy over his ‘growing intolerance in the country’ remark. He said this during a television interview. SRK saw a number of politicians speaking out against him. Like Shah Rukh, Aamir too found himself in an odd spot when he said that his wife Kiran Rao felt insecure in the country. The growing intolerance remark saw a line of controversies surrounding the actor this year. Bollywood singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya is known for being a loud mouth. He paid a price for being it. He not only got into trouble for tweeting in relation to Salman Khan’s 2002 hit-and-run case but also was accused by a woman for molestation during Durga Puja in 2015.
Godwoman in trouble
Self-styled godwoman Radhe Maa hogged the limelight after dowry harassment case filed by a Mumbai housewife, has revealed how she wanted to commit suicide when she was summoned by police. Her video became viral on the internet where Radhe Maa was seen dancing on Bollywood song ‘Akhiyo Ke Jharokhey Se’. Meanwhile, it was motor mouth TV actress Dolly Bindra, who accused Radhe Maa of intimidation, sexual harassment and voyeurism. Radhe maa episode was in media for almost months.
Pakistani artists unwelcome in the country
Noted Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali faced opposition after Shiva Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray met the organisers of his show and threatened to disrupt it if the show was not called off. The Shiv Sena believed India shouldn’t entertain Pakistani artists until the neighbouring country stopped sponsoring terror attacks on Indians.
Maria’s exit as Mumbai Police Commissioner
Rakesh Maria was suddenly removed from his post as the Commissioner of Mumbai Police and promoted as Director General of Home Guards. The development comes even as Maria was heading the investigation in the Sheena Bora murder case that has made headlines. Though Fadnavis had lauded the police for their efforts in the murder case, he had made clear that he was not happy with the attention the case was getting from Maria. Maria, had taken acute interest in the Sheena Bora case, and had himself interrogated the accused including Indrani Mukerjea and Sanjeev Khanna, which is unusual. Maria was also regularly holding press conferences about the case despite not having given any interview since he was made Mumbai Police chief. Ahmed Javed became the new Police Commissioner of Mumbai.
Rakesh Maria also courted controversy over his meeting with Lalit Modi in London. Maria had issued a statement saying he had met the ex-IPL boss on the insistence of Modi’s lawyer. The Maharashtra government, however, had given a clean chit to Maria after finding his explanation regarding the meeting to be “satisfactory”.
Scams affects BJP’s image
Maharashtra BJP could not stay away from indulging in scams, the famous scams of the year were Maharashtra Women and Child Development Department (WCD) headed by BJP leader Pankaja Munde, with RTI activists pointing to irregularities in the manufacture and distribution of Ayurvedic biscuits intended a vital source for the nourishment of tribal and underprivileged children living in the State’s backward districts. While the ‘chikki’ scam, whose irregularities have been pegged at a whopping Rs. 206 crore, has cast strong aspersions on the workings of Ms. Munde’s department, Right to Information (RTI) activist Vijay Kumbhar exposed the scandal, which encompasses irregularities in the manufacture of biscuits, had its roots during the tenure of the Congress-NCP government. Ms. Munde’s Department, in February this year, ordered purchases of Ayurvedic biscuits worth Rs. 95, 51,124 but the very next day (February 13) drastically increased the amount to Rs. 5 crore without a corresponding increase in the number of beneficiaries.
Tawde in fake degree row
There was huge controversy on Vinod Tawde’s degree; Tawde too admitted he received his engineering “degree” from a university not recognised by UGC or AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education). Officials at DVT wouldn’t say categorically, however, that the minister’s degree is fake. Dnyaneshwar Vidyapeeth Trust, the institute that Maharashtra Minister for Education and Culture Vinod Tawde named in his election affidavit from Borivali while declaring himself a BE (Electronics), concedes that it is not authorised to award a degree in engineering. In fact, it has ceased to offer courses of any kind since last year.
The BJP-led government, after coming to power in 2014, formed a high-power committee to push the CCTV project and contract for the same was signed in February, 2015. Mumbai is been divided into two zones for the completion of the project wherein around 1,400 CCTV cameras in the south zone (comprising areas in Central and South Mumbai), it may take some longer time. Anyway, if time factor is matter then it’s OK, but if we focus on the costing of the project then we can smell something is cooking in. Intuition of some scams is coming in the state. If we do some Mathematics of Grade II in this then the economics of CCTV camera aren’t stacking up, Rs. 950cr for 6000 CCTV cameras – approximately 15.8 lakhs per camera, around $26,000 USD per CCTV. Unless, they are going to produce some IMAX 3D quality images and are planning to stream live to the public or if they are planning to construct buildings to attach the camera on it which looks like a scam at the outset. BJP Government in Maharashtra spending 15.8 lakhs for one CCTV camera is beyond the understanding of common man.
Shocking murder of artist
Hema Upadhyay murder case still remains unsolved. On 12 December this year, Hema Upadhyay, an artist living in Mumbai, was found murdered along with her lawyer, Harish Bhambhani. Both bodies had been cut into pieces, wrapped in plastic sheets, placed inside a cardboard box, and dumped in a sewer in Kandivali area of Mumbai. Hema was going through a troubled marriage with her artist husband, Chintan Upadhyay and their divorce proceedings were underway. Given their background, the case drew wide media attention, leading to two persons being arrested for the killing. They later spilled the beans on the husband’s involvement, which led the police to arrest him as well. The gruesome nature of the crime in the closing month of 2015 only highlights the growing problem of crime and criminality in the world we live in.
As per latest National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data, in 2014, there were 33,981 cases of murder reported, 41,791 cases of attempt to murder, 36,735 cases of rape, 82,235 cases of attempt to outrage modesty of women, 77,237 cases of kidnapping and abduction, amongst the more serious crimes. 2015 has had its fair share of heinous crimes with several cases that caught the nation’s attention.
Beef banned in Maharashtra
President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995, nearly 19 years after the Maharashtra Assembly passed the Bill during the BJP-Shiv Sena rule in 1995.
The slaughter of cows was previously prohibited in the state under the Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976. However, the passage of the new Act will ban the slaughter of bulls as well as bullocks, which was previously allowed based on a fit-for-slaughter certificate.
The new Act will, however, allow slaughter of water buffaloes, which provides carabeef — generally seen as an inferior quality meat that makes up only 25 per cent of the total beef market in the state. Beef traders claim the move will not only render thousands jobless, but will also drive up the cost of other meats in the state.
The President had signed the Bill and sent it to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which then informed the Maharashtra Governor of the decision.
Now, anyone found to be selling beef or in possession of it can be jailed for five years and fined Rs 10,000.
Demise of two legendary personalities
Maharashtra saw a wave of Indian literary minds coming out openly in support of the growing intolerance and returning their prestigious National and Sahitya Akademi awards. Besides, yet another burning issue was appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). The protest by students saw several film personalities backing them over Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment. Year ended with the death of two legendary personalities, a ventral actress Sandhya and G D Madgulkar, well known Marathi poet and writer.
Unsolved murder mystery
The Sheena Bora murder mystery has been grabbing headlines since the day it came into light. The protagonist, who allegedly plotted the murder, is the victim’s mother Indrani Mukerjea.
Indrani allegedly plotted the murder of her daughter with the help of her present husband Peter Mukerjea, ex-husband Sanjeev Khanna and her driver.
The plot has thickened since the prime suspect’s current husband and ex-media baron Mukerjea was formally arrested as an accomplice on November 19 by the CBI, reports India Legal.
The new arrests and revelations have twisted the case for some, while also leading to newer clues. These seem to suggest the following:
There may be a direct link between the murder and the money stockpiled by the Mukerjeas after the sale of their company, INX Media in 2009. The CBI told the special court in Mumbai on November 26 that as much as Rs. 900 crore illegal funds from the INX Media transaction were parked through shell companies abroad, including in accounts opened for Sheena Bora in HSBC, Singapore.
With the CBI accumulating all the evidences, the revelations were shocking.
Peter, who tried to portray himself as ‘another victim’ of Indrani’s plan, was fully aware of the plan to murder Sheena. It is now revealed, through a series of emails he had sent to his son, Rahul, that he was very much a part of the plot and knew of every step his wife was taking.
Going by what the CBI told the court, there is obviously much more in the case. The agency has now gone back to a 2013 probe report of the Serious Fraud Investigation office (SFIO), under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, which looked into the dubious sale of INX Media.
The CBI has taken cognizance of the SFIO report, although it may look at it only within the narrow ambit of the murder investigation.
A police official, who is following the case closely, told India Legal that high stakes must certainly be involved for someone like Sanjeev Khanna to get himself entangled in the sordid mess.
Khanna was a fairly successful and respected businessman in Kolkata, owned an upscale restaurant and dabbled in real estate and the hotel development business before he was implicated in the murder.
“Why would he get involved? The explanation that he willingly joined the plot so that his daughter Vidhie’s interests would be served and she would become the rightful heir to Peter’s wealth is too simplistic. It may be recalled that Sanjeev was dumped by Indrani and their daughter was legally adopted by Peter. Why would Sanjeev agree to be part of the murder unless there were big bucks involved and he was promised a share?” he pointed out.
There are several questions that have bewildered investigators ever since the case came to light in August this year.
Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon hanged
Yakub Memon, who was convicted for helping finance the serial blasts in Mumbai in 1993 in which 257 people were killed, was hanged at the Nagpur Central Jail on 30th July 2015.
Memon was hanged till death in the ‘Fansi Yard’ under supervision of Jail Superintendent Yogesh Desai.
He was woken up at 3.30 am permitted a warm bath and provided a set of fresh clothes hours ahead of his scheduled hanging. Arrangements to offer namaz and read the Holy Quran were made for him at the Nagpur central jail.
He was offered a breakfast of his choice and he then underwent a final medical examination prior to hanging.
Chief Judicial Magistrate of Nagpur M M Deshpande was present in the Fansi Yard.
She read out the operating part of the TADA court order which awarded capital punishment to Yakub before he was made to stand on a stool and the lever pulled by the hangman.
A team of doctors declared him dead after about half-and-hour of the scheduled hanging, when his body was brought down.
Memon’s execution was carried out about two hours after his lawyers last-gasp plea to get the death warrant stayed was dismissed by the Supreme Court in an unprecedented hearing that began in the wee hours and ended at dawn.
Underworld don Chhota Rajan arrested
Mafia don Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje alias Chhota Rajan — former aide and strongman-turned-foe of fugitive Dawood Ibrahim — has been arrested by the Indonesian police in the tourist resort of Bali on October 25, 2015.
CBI director Anil Kumar Sinha confirmed the nabbing of Chhota Rajan, who operated from Mumbai and is wanted in India for a series of serious crimes and murders.
Rajan, 55, operated from Chembur and surroundings since the mid-1970s and later became a trusted henchman of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, the absconding don from Mumbai who is reportedly hiding in Pakistan.
Both fell out after the March 1993 Mumbai serial blasts and Chhota Rajan slipped out of India in 1995, remaining on the run till his arrest.
According to available information, the mafia don — declared a wanted man by InterPol since 1995 – arrived by flight from Sydney, Australia, to Bali and was arrested.
Former Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil, who was suffering from oral cancer, passed away in Mumbai on 16th February, 2015. Celebrities and politicians mourned the death of Patil who was fondly known as Aaba. The senior NCP leader had been undergoing treatment at the Lilavati Hospital in Bandra for oral cancer. Patil, a prominent NCP leader from Sangli in western Maharashtra, was operated upon last December at Breach Candy Hospital and was later shifted to Lilavati Hospital. Mr Patil held important ministries under Prithviraj Chavan-led Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra.
Patil’s political career spanning over 25 years has been marked by both milestones and controversies which he always handled confidently. He had taken a decision to ban dance bars in the year 2005-06, much against the wishes of his party colleagues. And despite a legal battle, he stuck to the decision till the end.
Social activist murdered
Veteran Communist leader Govind Pansare (84) who was shot on 16th February in Kolhapur died in a hospital in Mumbai on 20th February 2015.
Pansare a Communist leader as well as anti-toll activist was going for a morning walk along with his wife Uma (70) when he was shot by two bike born assailants who came asking for directions. Pansare’s wife Uma also suffered injuries when she tried to fight off the assailants. However Uma is currently recovering in the hospital.
Pansare’s murder is identical to the killing of anti superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar who was shot and killed in Pune while he was taking a morning stroll on August 20, 2013. Dabholkar too was killed by two bike born assailants. In spite of two years the killers of Dabholkar have not been caught.