Farmer Gajanan Ghadge went missing the day he shot to fame.
On Wednesday, the 52-year-old former deputy sarpanch of the nondescript Khursapar village of Nagpur district became well-known in Delhi — courtesy the India Against Corruption (IAC). Ghadge was one of the farmers whose land was usurped by Purti Power and Sugar Ltd, a company promoted by BJP president Nitin Gadkari, the IAC had claimed.
The trouble was, the man went missing that very day.
Landing at the sleepy outpost, around 65 km from Nagpur, the media found a worried wife. “If he doesn’t return by Friday, we will lodge a complaint with the police,” said Durga, 36.Ghadge, an assertive villager and a former Shiv Sena leader, had allegedly got into trouble after he refused to vacate a 3.5-acre plot.
In 1981, the family had handed over 23 acres to the state government for the Wadgaon dam project. It was part of the 100 acres of agricultural land that Gadkari had allegedly helped the government acquire. In return, he had received favours from former irrigation minister Ajit Pawar, IAC leader Arvind Kejriwal had said.
But part of the land — 17 acres — was not used and Gha-dge had urged the government to return it to the farmers.
“In 1984, the government said the unused land would be returned,” said Ghadge’s elder brother Vishwanath. After the project was completed in 1997, the farmers began cultivating the land on an annual lease from the irrigation department.
The Ghadge family had taken 3.5 acres on lease. “But in 2008, Purti personnel said they had taken the entire land on lease and we should vacate it,” said Vishwanath.
The family refused, and they were harassed and tortured by Purti officials, he added.
Sudhir Diwe, managing director of the company, however, issued a firm denial.
Ghadge, he said, was still cultivating 3.5 acres he got on an 11-year lease from the irrigation department for developing a nursery.
The plot is part of the 78 acres belonging to Purti Samrudhi Sinchan Kalyan Samiti. “But we have not raised any objection. You can go and see how Ghadge has cultivated cotton and pulses,” Diwe said. “Ghadge is a shareholder of the sugar factory and sells sugarcane to us every year," he added.