Giving a short relief to the ruling Congress after attacking its leaders and their kin over the issue of corruption, activist-turned-politicianArvind Kejriwalon Wednesday targetted the largest opposition party the BJP, accusing its national president Nitin Gadkari
Kejriwal said the BJP chief, who claims to be the well-wisher of farmers, had a nexus with other political parties as he ensured diversion of water meant for drinking and irrigation purposes to various power plants, sugar factories and other industries run by various politicians and made the peasants' condition in the region grimmer even as they battled problems of drought and crop loss.
Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo by T Narayan
Joined by RTI
activist and India Against Corruption
(IAC) member Anjali Damania
, Kejriwal cited a case of a farmer of the region -- Gajanan Rambhau Ghadge -- whose land was acquired in 1997 to construct a dam for irrigation purpose. He was one of the several villagers whose farming land was acquired to facilitate the project.
The Vidarbha region in Eastern Maharashtra
Kejriwal said after the authorities' go-ahead, local farmers, including Ghadge, started cultivation on around 100 acre unused land that was acquired from them. They also demanded return of their respective plots which was left unused after the completion of project. The government, however, sat on the farmers' demand for years.
However, an investigation by Damania and her associates led to revelation that the unused land drew attention of BJP leader Gadkari, who in June 2005 urged the then water resources minister and NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, to allot him the plot. Surprisingly, Pawar took up the matter on priority and convened a meeting of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) within four days wherein he decided to give away the farmers' land to Gadkari, Kejriwal alleged.
Arvind Kejriwal and RTI activist Anjali Damania at the press conference. Photo by T Narayan
Ajit Pawar, who happens to be the nephew of NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, had to resign as Maharashtra deputy chief minister on September 25 following media reports and corruption charges against him involving various irrigation projects in Vidarbha region during his stint as the state's water resources minister. Ironically, in this case too, he was accused of benefiting Gadkari aide and BJP MP Ajay Sancheti's firms.
Kejriwal also accused Gadkari of harming Maharashtra farmers, even to the extent of pushing many to commit suicide, by using his political clout and coxing the government to divert water meant for farmers. Moreover, the industries and power plants in the area polluted the water bodies meant for drinking and irrigation purposes so much that water could not be used even by animals, he said.
Prashant Bhushan, Anjali Damania and Arvind Kejriwal at the press conference. Photo by T Narayan
Kejriwal said Damania learnt about the corruption in construction of irrigation dams in Maharashtra when she filed several RTI applications that unravelled the scam. She filed a PIL in Bombay High Court in April 2012. She even met Gadkari in August 2012 to request him to take up the issues raised by her strongly. She was, however, allegedly dissuaded by the BJP chief from pursuing the case.
The IAC leader alleged that Gadkari was using BJP to flourish his business interests. He said Gadkari did not have any sympathy with the farmers. When huge amount of water was required to meet farmers' demand he was missing in action, but he raised the matter when it concerned private industries and even wrote to Union Water Resources Minister Pawan Bansal.
Kejriwal claimed that Gadkari has giant industries running under his name which includes five power plants and three sugar factories. The BJP chief owns agro-based companies, NGO, solar-based power company and super bazaar, he said.