Tribal Development Minister Vishnu Savra’s verbal duel with angry family members of a child who died due to malnourishment in Palghar district has landed him in trouble.
His alleged statement of “so be it” after he was questioned about the death of children in the district prompted Opposition parties to demand his sacking from the cabinet for being insensitive.
The newly formed tribal dominated Palghar district has been plagued by malnourishment deaths with over a dozen fatalities reported in the last one month. The most recent was that of Sagar Wagh, a toddler, on August 30.
Savra on Thursday decided to pay the family a visit at their village Kalambwadi in Mokhada Taluka along with a retinue of state officials. The minister was first confronted by the child’s mother who did not allow him to step into her home and questioned him as to why he had not visited them earlier. A large number of villagers and social workers surrounded Savra when he went to Wagh’s home.
Savra, who appeared to have been caught by surprise by the hostile reception, questioned the family on their behavior. The family had reportedly quizzed the minister on what the state was doing for malnourished children. “It is the government’s responsibility. That is why we have come. Should we not come? If you feel so we will not come henceforth,” Savra can be heard arguing in a video that was shot by locals.
Savra was heckled by locals who questioned him on what the state was doing when children were dying. “Have you come here only to argue? You don’t know anything better than arguing,” Savra can be heard telling villagers. The villagers asked Savra what he had done and claimed that 600 children had died in the area so far. “Asu de na mag (so be it),” Savra said. He subsequently regained composure and said, “We are formulating policies to tackle this.” Savra left soon after.
The opposition was quick to latch on to what Savra had said with Leader of Opposition, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil calling him insensitive and demanding his resignation.
“He should be thrown out of the cabinet. Such behavior does not suit a minister,” Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said.
Savra defended himself and said he had not said anything offensive. “I acknowledge I was late in visiting the family as I was out on tour. When I went to the hamlet, there were a few activists from Shramjeevi Sanghatna sporting black ribbons. It is their right and I was there to offer my condolences. However, I never said anything hurtful about the deaths,” Savra said.
65-year-old Savra is a six-term MLA, who now represents Vekramgarh in Palghar district. Savra, who comes from a tribal dominated area adjoining Thane district, is the only tribal leader associated with the BJP since 90s. The tribal community has generally backed the Congress and Savra was the lone exception in the 90s to win on a BJP ticket.
Meanwhile, leaders from the Congress as well as NCP will visit Palghar in the next few days to meet people.