Traffic outside the state secretariat, Mantralaya, remained blocked for almost half-an-hour Tuesday afternoon when a group of specially challenged protesters took to the streets protesting government apathy.
Members of the National Federation of Visually Impaired Persons stood on the road outside the main gate at Mantralaya, raising slogans against Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his government. Their main grouse was that government benefits they were eligible for were being denied owing to corruption and government apathy.
The group claimed while they had submitted a memorandum in this regard to the Chief Minister’s Office a month ago, it had elicited no response. Ironically, the protest comes days after Fadnavis was complimented for promptly resolving a job-related matter pertaining a wheelchair-bound doctor.
While the policemen allowed the protesters to carry out their protest, they were later bundled off in police vans amid a steady downpour. The federation has alleged the benefits available to the specially challenged under the government-sponsored Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana were not reaching them, and that these were being siphoned off by corrupt officials and middlemen at the district and village level.
While beneficiaries eligible under the scheme are provided a financial assistance of Rs 600 a month, the protesters claimed families had not been receiving the entire amount. The federation has also been demanding that the assistance be raised to Rs 6,000 taking inflation and price rise into account. But the government is yet to give in to this demand.
Rahul Patil, one of the protesters, fired a barb at the government and the lawmakers. “The government can raise salaries of lawmakers who are well-off. But in 10 years, we have seen no hike in our financial assistance. The government is deaf to the needs of the blind. They should be ashamed of themselves.” The chief minister is away on an official trip to the US, but a senior official said the protesters’ demands would be looked into.