Suresh Lad, the Nationalist Congress Party MLA from Karjat in Raigad district, reportedly slapped a deputy collector on August 11 over land acquisition for a gas pipeline project. The district administration initiated action after the video of the attack went viral on social media.
Lad, who was leading a delegation of villagers agitating against land acquisition by a private company that is to lay a gas pipeline, resorted to manhandling and slapped the deputy collector and an official from the company. When the officer kept pleading with the legislator to stop, Lad threatened to take him to the police station. The incident took place in the office of the private company.
The MLA has however denied the charges, saying the uproar was against the officials of the private company which is illegally acquiring the plots of the farmers. “We were fighting against the officers from the company as it had not followed the due procedure to acquire the land. I don’t know why the meetings to resolve the dispute were held at the company’s office instead of at the collector’s office.
“There was a skirmish between us and the company officials, but we never took on any government official,” Lad told HT. According to him, the villagers were angry because the officer was holding the meeting related to the dispute in the office of the concerned company and not the district collector.
The district administration has taken the thrashing very seriously. “The officer was deputed in Karjat as a competent authority for the land acquisition for the gasline project in three districts. He has lodged a complaint with the Palghar collector and we will decide on the course of action very quickly,” said Satish Bagal, resident deputy collector of Raigad.
The Raigad and Palghar wings of Maharashtra State Gazetted Officers Federation have convened meetings on Friday to protest against the attack.
“The future course of action will be decided during the meetings. An FIR will be lodged very soon as it is the responsibility of the collector now. We have decided to demand for the suspension of the elected person from the respective statutory body for attacking any government officer. We will meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis with our demand,” said GD Kulthe, chief advisor of the Federation.
Chandrakant Patil, revenue minister, whose department governs the offices of the collectors, said that the action would be taken after seeking detailed information of the case.
Meanwhile, Lad’s party has supported him saying that the legislator was fighting for the farmers’ rights. “Why did the officer not lodge the complaint in the last six days? If Lad has slapped the officer, we should also look into the background of the matter and the entire video clip should be scanned. The company was arbitrarily grabbed the land of the farmers and the officer was acting as the agent of the company,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.