Pune deaths: Maharashtra opposition flays government, probe ordered (Lead)

August 10th, 2011 - 10:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Mumbai, Aug 10 (IANS) At the receiving end of the opposition’s ire, Maharashtra’s Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance government Wednesday ordered an inquiry by a retired high court judge into the police firing on a farmers’ rally in Pune district a day earlier which left at least three people dead.

State Home Minister R.R. Patil informed the assembly that the probe would ascertain whether the police had used excessive force to control the farmers who went on rampage opposing the takeover of their lands for a drinking water pipeline to Pune city

Patil added that the probe will also examine whether opposition parties had played any role in instigating the farmers.

He assured the assembly members that the inquiry report will be submitted to the government within three months.

At least three people were killed Tuesday in Bahuri village in Pune district when police opened fire at thousands of farmers who blocked highways and turned violent to protest government takeover of their lands for laying a drinking water pipeline from Pavna Dam to Pune city.

At least eight farmers and 35 police personnel were injured in the violence and protests that paralysed the old Mumbai-Pune highway and the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Not satisfied with Patil’s reply, belligerent opposition members continued to shout anti-government slogans and stalled the proceedings of the house, forcing Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil to adjourn the house for 15 minutes.

Later, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Sanjay Begade climbed on the podium and grabbed the speaker’s mace, following which the house was again adjourned amid an uproar.

R.R. Patil said he has directed the Pune district police chief to examine video footage, identify police officers who were damaging vehicles of the protesters, and immediately suspend them.

Describing the incident as “unfortunate”, the minister said that although the police had been deployed in adequate numbers in and around Maval sub-district, the protesters resorted to blocking traffic on highways.

Earlier Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar announced in the legislative council that government jobs will be given to the next of kin of the victims killed in the police firing.

On the opposition demand for Rs.5 lakh compensation for the families of those killed in the firing and Rs.50,000 for the injured, Pawar said the government will soon take a decision on that.

Pawar also said that pending the outcome of a high-level meeting within a week to discuss the issue, the district administration has been ordered to stop the ongoing work on the pipeline from Pavna Dam to Pimpri-Chinchwad, on the outskirts of Pune.

The high-level meeting will be attended by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Maval BJP legislator Sanjay Bhegade, Opposition leaders and others.

Shortly before the legislature proceedings were due to start Wednesday, angry members of all opposition parties stood on the steps of the legislature building at Nariman Point and started raising anti-government slogans.

Carrying placards and banners, they chanted demand for resignation of Home Minister R.R. Patil and dismissal of the state government.

When Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan entered the legislature, opposition members raised their voices in unison and demanded the sacking of the government.

Leader of Opposition in the assembly Eknath Khadse of the BJP, Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe and other party members visited Maval to assess the situation.

Khadse and Gorhe also visited the family members of those killed and the injured.

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