In what is being seen as ‘Anna Hazare effect’, residents protesting against red zone in Dehu Road area for years have received a ‘first-of-its-kind’, official response from Defence Minister A K Antony, assuring them that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would look into the matter and also hold a meeting with them at a mutually convenient time and date.
On January 16, Hazare had shot off a letter to Antony seeking removal of restrictions imposed by the MoD in and around Ammunition Holding Installation on Dehu Road.
“I am deeply concerned to know that a number of restrictions have been imposed on usage of land in and around ammunition depot, Dehu Road. Red Zone Sanstha have repeatedly forwarded representations to your office and also directly to your good self.
You are requested to grant a personal hearing and alleviate their suffering,” the letter reads.
In a reply dated January 22, Antony said, “I have asked the Ministry to examine the issues raised in your (Hazare’s) letter at the earliest. However, I shall meet the representatives of the Red Zone Sanstha at a mutually convenient time and date.”
Sudam Taras, leader of an action committee that has been protesting against the red zone in Dehu Road area, said it was for the first time that the MoD has come out with a formal response to the pleas of affected residents.
“It is only due to Anna Hazare that the MoD has taken due cognizance of issues faced by people affected due to Red Zone. With Anna’s support, we hope some solution would be worked out soon,” he said.
Taras said the action committee was hopeful of a meeting with Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh during his official visit to Pune in the second week of February to discuss its demands.
On Thursday, a large number of Red Zone affected people, united under the banner of the action committee, staged a sit-in agitation at Bhakti Shakti Square in Nigdi to press for their demands.
Hazare was expected to join the protest, but he did not attend. Former head of Anna’s village Ralegan Siddhi, Ganpat Awati, attended the agitation on his behalf.
Around 50,000 families are believed to have been affected by the red zone in Dehu Road area that was created under The Works of Defence Act, 1903.
Dehu Road Cantonment along with certain areas of Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation and Pimpri Chinchwad New Township Development Authority are covered in the 2,000-yard zone.