Adding a new twist to the farmers' protest in which three persons were killed on Tuesday near Pune, Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil told the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday that first there was private firing from an Indigo or Indica car and that person fled after injuring a local. The injured person filed a police complaint and pieces of the bullet were found and sent for examination, he said. “We have to find out who was in the car and conduct a through probe into this,” he added.

Replying to an adjournment motion on the issue, he said after this private firing, the mob which had gathered on the Mumbai-Pune expressway started throwing stones. Mr. Patil charged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its farmers wing, the Bharatiya Kisan Sanghatana (BKS), with being in the forefront of the protest.

Noisy scenes

The Maharashtra Legislature witnessed several adjournments, noisy scenes and slogan shouting on Tuesday over the police firing incident.. Mr. Patil warned the Opposition against using the issue for political mileage. The work on the controversial pipeline to supply water from Pawna dam to Pimpri Chinchwad has been stopped

Mr. Patil said that nine farmers were injured in the firing, apart from the three who were killed and of the 46 policemen who sustained injuries, eight had fractured limbs. He admitted that the government had failed to prevent the incident, even though there was adequate police bandobast in the area. He said since 2008, ten protests had taken place peacefully and even this time, there were protests in eight places and only one turned violent.

‘Centre approved pipeline'

Mr. Patil said the Pawna dam was built in 1972 and even though the State did not have a resettlement police, the 861 farmers were given one acre of land each. The demand for water from the Pawna dam for drinking water was because the water resources around Pimpri Chinchwad area were polluted by industries. The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) would have a projected population of 29 lakh in 30 years and the project was vital. The water pipeline to the PCMC was approved by the Centre. The farmers opposed the water pipeline saying that water could be supplied from the river, but Mr. Patil said since it was meant for drinking water, a pipeline was safer.

‘Ryots wont be hit'

The Home Minister emphasised that the protest on the Expressway was to draw attention to the issue keeping in the mind the ongoing session of the Legislature. Three hundred to four hundred people blocked the expressway and stopped traffic, and they were not ready to give up. The local farmers would not lose out because of the pipeline project, he said and the government had given a guarantee to the High Court in this regard. Already four Kolhapur type weirs were built and two more were in progress, so that local farmers were not deprived of irrigation.

Loss of property

The incident led to a loss of property on Rs. one crore, he added. He also said that the policemen who broke two private vehicles and damaged them must be identified and suspended and he had issued orders to that effect.

However, the Opposition was unhappy with his reply and continued to disrupt the Assembly. Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse of the BJP said even though a judicial inquiry was announced with a report to be submitted in three months, the government had not announced any relief for the families of the victims of firing.

Keywords: Pune firing