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“Will make Vidarbha a national issue if needed”

Staff Reporter

Mumbai: In a strongly worded message to the Congress-led government at the State and Centre, Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), spearheading the demand for a separate Vidarbha, said here on Friday that Vidarbha’s leadership would not dither on intensifying their agitation and giving it a national dimension.

“Currently, the nature of the agitation is limited. But tomorrow if the need arises, we will not hesitate to make it a national issue. The Congress should bear this in mind,” Mr. Ambedkar said in his first press address here after the bandh in Vidarbha on January 20.

He said the Vidarbha Rajya Sangram Samiti (VRSS), a joint committee of pro-Vidarbha parties and political leaders, had sought an appointment with Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “As yet we have not received enough cooperation from the Prime Minister’s Office or the Congress [leadership]. The more the Congress delays, the more it is set to lose,” Mr. Ambedkar said.

The VRSS is set to meet on February 2 to decide on intensifying its protests. Leaders such as Jambuvantrao Dhote, Congress MPs Vilas Muttemwar and Datta Meghe, former Congress MP Naresh Pugliya and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Ministers Anil Deshmukh and Manohar Naik are expected to be part of the meeting.

The NCP has declared its support for separation. In view of their stand, Mr. Ambedkar proposed that the party move a resolution demanding the creation of a separate State of Vidarbha. “I assure you that Vidarbha’s MLAs will back it,” he said .

Mr. Ambedkar accused the State of being “irresponsible,” with Ministers narrowing their focus on the constituencies or regions they represented. He said “a gang” of such Ministers had “looted Maharashtra’s budget” by appropriating it for their bastions. He said that for a backward region, the government’s modus operandi was to set up a committee, present a report and then dawdle over it.

Roadblock

The survey of the Dandekar Committee on the irrigation backlog in Vidarbha was conducted up to 1994. “From 1994 to 2009, there has been discrimination in terms of investment. The result is farmer suicides and stark disparities in irrigation,” he said.

Mr. Ambedkar said that over 330 projects in Vidarbha had hit a roadblock awaiting clearances under the Forest Act. He pointed out that 33 per cent of reserve forest area is stipulated for every State. Vidarbha accounted for 58 per cent of Maharashtra’s forests.

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