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Anna, Arvind chew up Pawar on cane

Mumbai, Nov. 13: Anti-graft activists Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal today backed the demand for higher prices by sugarcane-growers in western Maharashtra, slamming the state government for trying to crush the agitation that left two farmers dead.

One of the victims died under a truck. The other was apparently shot during alleged police firing after the protest turned violent yesterday following the arrest of spearhead Raju Shetty, an Independent MP seen as a critic of NCP boss Sharad Pawar.

Hazare accused the Congress-NCP government of discriminating between foreign companies and local farmers. “They don’t think about farmer suicides. But they provide cheap land, power and other facilities to foreign companies. This is the state of an agricultural country. I believe that Raju Shetty’s agitation (for high prices for cane produce) is a just protest.”

He also blamed Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s statements for the violent turn. Pawar had recently said the hike demand would harm the sugar industry.

Kejriwal linked the alleged police action to his allegation that S. Jaipal Reddy had been removed as petroleum minister under pressure from a business group.

“Most sugar mills owned by NCP and Congress ppl. Govt supporting mill owners... when farmers demand price hike, police fires at them. When Reliance demands price hike, govt even sacks its ministers to please Reliance,” he tweeted.

“V Strongly condemn Maha govt action of firing at farmers. Release Raju Shetty, accept farmer’s price hike demand adequate compnstion 4 dead.”

He criticised the UPA’s Rs 70,000-crore loan waiver to stem rising farmer suicides. “That’s why farmers committing suicides in Maha. PM, they don’t need charity. They don’t need ur package. They need fair price for their crops,” he said.

He also said he would travel to Pune tomorrow morning to meet Shetty in Yerawada jail. He later tweeted that Pune’s inspector-general of prisons had refused him permission to meet Shetty. “What kind of country r v living in?” he said.

Jail officials, however, claimed they had not received any request from Kejriwal and prisons rules did not allow anyone, including immediate family members, to visit inmates on official holidays.

Parts of western Maharashtra, particularly Sangli where the farmer was killed in alleged police firing, remained tense amid conflicting claims regarding the death.

Police had yesterday claimed that Chandrakant Nalawade, 32, was hit by a bullet. But doctors who did the autopsy said his body had five bullet wounds.

Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has ordered a magisterial probe into the firing. Chavan met farmer leader Rahunathdada Patil and urged the cane-growers to end the agitation.