Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh,in a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan,has sought his intervention in connection with the interrogation of Prime Ministers Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) from Gadchiroli,Mahesh Raut. Ramesh said adverse media reports have caused incalculable damage to the goodwill fellowship.
The police had detained Raut last week after two Naxals arrested from Koinvarshi village revealed that Raut and his friend Harshali Potdar were supposed to go with them to meet senior Naxal leaders.
Both of them were in the village when the Naxals were nabbed. The police had then let them off after they identified themselves. The police said the two were found protesting against Jindal Steels proposed mining project in the district in a public hearing last month.
The letter dated June 28 stated,As minister incharge of PMRD fellowship I am concerned with the prolonged interrogation of the PMRDF by the police.
The issue has caused a discord between the Collector and the police.
The Collector has claimed that he has not been told about any offence being filed against Raut and Potdar. However,the police said they have registered an offence against them.
However,minister Jair-am Ramesh seems to have given a clean chit to Raut. I independently enquired into the allegation from reliable sources. I understand that Mahesh was working successfully with the district administration in helping the poor to access government programmes. He has generated significant goodwill among the locals. He fully participated in camps organised jointly by the district administration and the police. He has been visiting remote villages unfrequented by officials and staying there to interact with the people, Ramesh said.
The minister said that it is quite possible that in doing such work,PMRD fellows will face suspicion and backlash particularly in IAP districts where there is a climate of distrust.
Unless we are alert about who protects the poor and who exploits them,we will not be able to solve the problem of alienation that plagues these regions, Ramesh said.
156 young men and women with bright academic qualifications and commitment to serve the poor in these difficult areas and were selected in 2012 through a highly competitive selection and induction process by my ministry with the help of TISS. The aim is to develop a cadre of development professionals who are committed to working for the poor and disadvantaged, Ramesh said.
I definitely do no want to second guess the local civil and police administration,who function in very difficult circumstances. So I seek your personal intervention to clear the air and bring the issue to an end so that the PMRDFs are able to work without fear. Mahesh Raut should be allowed to continue working in Gadchiroli and the Collector may be directed to provide all necessary support, Ramesh wrote in the letter.