Holding the government responsible for the death of farmer Dharma Patil, the Opposition, Congress and the NCP said that timely intervention could have saved him from taking the extreme step. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan demanded a judicial probe into the matter. He said: “My information is that there are some land agents involved who pay higher compensation to those who pay them bribes but lower rates to those who don’t comply with their demand. Dharma Patil had refused to part with compensation funds. As a result, he was given a lower price for land acquired. It is a very serious matter.” The MPCC chief, Ashok Chavan, said: “The government should be booked under section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code for its failure to give justice to the farmer.”
Congress leaders described the incident as failure of the administration and lack of sensitivity to public issues. Opposition leader in the Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, said: “The government will have to shoulder the responsibility. It also exposes the administrative negligence.”
Similar views were echoed by Opposition leader in the Legislative Council, Dhananjay Munde (NCP) who said: “The government should answer what led the farmer to end his life.”
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said: “Government should be booked for culpable homicide.” The Opposition accused minister Rawal of exploiting farmers and playing spoiler by not allowing justice to be delivered to farmer Dharma Patil. Patil was slated to meet Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule to discuss higher compensation for farmers but the opposition claimed Rawal had not allowed the meeting. The Congress and the NCP leaders also alleged that Rawal exploited farmers by purchasing land from them at a lower rate in his home district of Dhule. Vikhe Patil said: “Rawal should explain his role in land purchase and compensation for farmers.”
NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said: “Rawal used his political clout to cancel the meeting scheduled between Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Dharma Patil over higher compensation.” He added: “Had the meeting taken place, the farmer would not have taken the extreme step.” Malik also said: “Rawal and his family members bought land from farmers at lower rates in Dhule district ahead of acquisition by the state government for higher compensation.” The minister should explain, demanded Malik. Rawal, a cabinet minister, who represents Shindkheda constituency in Dhule district, dismissed the charges as “baseless”.
The minister explained: “When the land procurement began for a solar power plant in 2011, as a BJP MLA, I fought for higher compensation for farmers. I had demanded Rs 10 lakh per acre, instead of Rs 4 lakh being offered by the Congress-NCP government.” He also indicated that he was not even allowed to participate in the district meeting when the land acquisition process was underway and farmers’ consent had been sought. He was told that he was not project-affected and hence, could not participate. So, he brought some nominal land to make his way to the meeting, he said.
Earlier, Energy Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule had written a letter to Narendra Patil, the son of the deceased farmer, Dharma Patil, assuring a revaluation of the land and higher compensation. Bawankule said: “We would reassess the land and fruit-bearing trees. If the compensation is lower, it would be re-evaluated. The process will be completed within 30 days.” He admitted that the farmer had written a letter to him complaining about lower compensation.