Mumbai/Nagpur: The 53rd Maharashtra Day celebrations saw events of vastly different hues: While youths in Mumbai pledged to make the state drug-free, farmers in Vidarbha observed a "black day" Wednesday.
Over a thousand youths in Mumbai vowed to work for a drug-free Maharashtra and Mumbai, while hundreds of farmers and widows observed a fast Wednesday, observing as "black day" the day Maharashtra was formed after the division of the erstwhile Bombay state in 1960.
The farmers were protesting the neglect of their community by the government in Yavatmal, Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra.
In Mumbai, Shamsher Khan Pathan, who busted several drug cartels before he retired as Assistent Commissioner of Police last year, administered the pledge to youths to shun drugs and eradicate the menace of drug addiction from the state.
"Several NGOs, rehabilitation centres, hospitals and experts have agreed to provide guidance, counsel and also subsidised treatment to the victims of drug abuse," Pathan said on the occasion.
He urged state Home Minister R.R. Patil to take a tough stand against the drugs mafia, just as he successfully shut down dance bars and continued the crackdown on gambling dens and illicit liquor joints.
In Yavatmal, several hundred farmers and farm widows staged a sit-in protest, fasting and marking the day as "black day" in an effort to highlight their plight before the government.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) chief Kishore Tiwari said the state government failed to protect the farming community, despite having identified over four million distressed people. He said all expert panels have recommended provisions for food security, healthcare and other support to the farmers, but nothing has yet been received.
"As a result of the ongoing agrarian crisis, over 10,000 farmers have ended their lives since 2005, turning Vidarbha into a 'farmers graveyard'. We want immediate attention to address the woes of the entire farming community," Tiwari said.