Maharashtra sect up in arms against Dow Chemicals unit in Pune

Sindh Today, September 26, 2008
Pune, Sep 26 (IANS) Followers of the Varkari sect in Maharashtra Friday intensified their agitation against Dow Chemicals to press their demand for closure of the multinational company’s unit near here for alleged pollution.
The Varkaris staged a protest in Chakan, Alandi and Khed sub-districts.
The Varkaris, known for their peace loving nature and devotion to Maharashtra’s reigning deity Vithoba of Pandharpur, are up in arms against the infamous Union Carbide’s sister concern setting up its Research and Development unit at Shinde Vasuli near Chakan, about 25 km from Pune.
‘We do not want the polluting unit here and will not rest till it is wound up,’ former Bombay High Court judge B.G. Kolse Patil, leading the agitation, told reporters.
Doubting the claim of Dow Chemicals and the government authorities that the company only wants to set up it R&D unit where no commercial production would be carried out and therefore no scope for pollution, Kolse Patil asked why the company had sought 100 acres of land in that case.
‘We have adverse reports against the company from 54 countries and cannot trust its promises,’ he added.
Even as rebel Nationalist Congress Party leader Shalinitai Patil, the widow of former Maharashtra chief minister Vasantdada Patil, led the agitation in Alandi, the party’s president and union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar appealed to the Varkaris in Pune to refrain from the agitation.
‘I will not hesitate to recommend the unit’s closure if it were to cause pollution but my enquiries have revealed that nothing of the sort is happening,’ Pawar said.
Referring to the beating up of a Dow official and burning down of his car by the protesters, Pawar said it was unbecoming of the sect’s character.
A Maharashtra Pollution Control Board officer told IANS that the proposed R&D unit has received clearance from the National Chemicals Laboratory but could complete only 20 percent of its construction because of the ongoing agitation.
Among those lending support to the agitation was Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Gopinath Munde, who flayed the arrest and ‘humiliation’ of Varkari leader Bandu Maharaj Karadkar some days ago. The BJP’s ally Shiv Sena has also supported the stir.
Meanwhile, the Varkaris took out processions singing bhajans (devotional songs) at other places in the state, including Nagpur and Akola, to express solidarity with the agitation.

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