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Monday, January 31, 2000

Silicon Valley Saga Series

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85-yr-old project-affected farmer sets himself ablaze

SATARA, JANUARY 30: Displacement and debt drove 85-year-old farmer Kisan Ramu Pawar to his death at Kaloshi village in Satara district on Saturday evening.

Pawar, who was involved in a protracted legal battle for productive land after the Kanher dam submerged his ancestral property, set himself ablaze on the rehabilitation office staircase here. He was taken to the civil hospital with 100 per cent burns where he died Sunday morning.

The farmer, who left home on Saturday afternoon on the pretext of visiting his daughter in Baratgaon, tied his legs together before dousing himself with kerosene and setting himself on fire, according to police.

According to Satara Superintendent of Police Suresh Khopade, Pawar said in his dying declaration that he was bankrupt and unable to support his family.

Tension prevailed in Satara on Sunday, with people from Kaloshi refusing to claim Pawar's body, demanding action in the incident. Tempers ran high as the deceased's relatives complained that the local policethreatened to shift the body for cremation immediately. Minister of State for Rehabilitation Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

``It was unfortunate. The State Government has taken serious note of Pawar's death,'' Nimbalkar, who hails from the parched but sugar-rich Satara district, told The Indian Express. The minister also assured the bereaved family of `proper action'.

Pawar was given two acres of land under a rehabilitation package at Kaloshi village in Koregaon tehsil of Satara after his ancestral property in Kanher Chinchani was submerged by the Kanher dam in the early 1980's. He even took an agricultural loan. However, a court ruled in favour of the original landowner, and officials gave Pawar another piece of land which turned out to be barren and aggravated his debt burden. The loan, which originally amounted to Rs 9,000 had increased to around Rs 30,000, said Pawar's family members.

Ever since the Satara Krishna Valley Development Corporation was formed,the district has witnessed major irrigation-related activities. The State had pumped in around Rs 12,000 crore in the valley in the wake of the May 31, 2000 deadline of the tripartite Krishna water-sharing award.

Project-affected persons (PAPs) of several small and medium projects in the valley have been demanding `fair rehabilitation'.

The BJP has come down on the approach of the rehabilitation machinery towards PAPs. The party's liaison MLA for Satara Girish Bapat sought the resignations of Naik Nimbalkar and Rehabilitation Minister Vilasrao Patil Undalkar, who too is from Satara.

Timely action on part of the rehabilitation machinery could have saved Pawar's life, Bapat said.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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