VNSSM chief sacked after raising farmers plight with PM, blames Fadnavis

By Quaid Najmi Mumbai, Sep 20 : In a stunning move, the Maharashtra government has sacked Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari as Chairman of the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission (VNSSM), ostensibly for inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the family of a farmer who committed suicide last Saturday. Hitting back, Tiwari pointed an accusing finger at Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for the "lightning speed" in which he was relieved of responsibilities as the VNSSM chief. Tiwari, ironically, was appointed to the crucial post in August 2015 by Fadnavis when he was the Chief Minister in the previous Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena coalition government (2014-2019). The deceased farmer was Dashrath L. Kedari, 42, from Pune who penned a mentioned the Prime Minister in a suicide note - narrating his plight due to debts and other issues - before ending his life on Saturday. The government's decision to sack Tiwari - accorded a MoS rank - came barely hours after he drew Modi's attention to how the Pune peasant had wished the PM, consumed some pesticides and then jumped to his death into a pond on September 17. "Top government officials privately inform that they were ordered by DyCM Fadnavis to remove me immediately from the VNSSM Chairman's post. The official orders came late in the evening to me. I wonder if Fadnavis even consulted the PM and the CM, or acted independently," Tiwari claimed. Slamming the government, Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said Tiwari was stripped of the VNSSM post in just two hours after he raised the issue of the deceased farmer with the PM and agriculture-related problems. "What is wrong in drawing the PM's attention to the issue? Rather than devising solutions to stop farmers' suicides, the state government decided to silence the person raising their cause. This is sheer vendetta and nothing but political terrorism," she said sharply. Congress chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said that the state government's act shows the "total insensitivity of the BJP, Fadnavis and other top leaders" to the misery of the farmers in Maharashtra and elsewhere. "Instead of hastily removing Tiwari, if their government had displayed the same speed to address the cause of the farmers, thousands of innocent lives could have been saved," Londhe pointed out. Nationalist Congress Party's chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase felt Tiwari did "the right thing by speaking about the farmers' distress directly with the PM" and urging Modi to witness first-hand their sufferings in the state where he had launched his 'Chai Pe Charcha' (March 2014). "The state government obviously was embarrassed and scared that they could be exposed as to what compelled a small farmer to wish Happy Birthday to the PM and then end his life. This is the price Tiwari has paid for highlighting the farmers' cause," he said. In his letter, Tiwari had urged the PM to meet the farmer's family, or direct Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to go there during her upcoming visit to Pune soon. The government retaliated with a terse notification issued by a Deputy Secretary Sanjay A. Dharurkar late on Monday, saying that the appointment of Tiwari - who was heading the VNSSM since August 2015 (when Fadnavis was the CM) - has been cancelled. No reasons were assigned for the abrupt step in Dharurkar's order, and the Divisional Commissioner, Amravati, has been handed over the additional charge of VNSSM till further orders. Unfazed, Tiwari vowed that he will continue to raise the farmers' voice without let-up as he has been doing for the past over 30 years, raise their demands and seek solutions from the state and Centre. (Quaid Najmi can be contacted at /IANS


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