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Sharad Pawar puts poll campaign on hold to empathise with thirsty farmers of Pune

Pune : At the height of the Lok Sabha campaigning and cacophony, Nationalist Congress Party-SP President Sharad Pawar on Monday took time off electioneering to visit drought-hit areas in Pune district of western Maharashtra and interact with farmers there.

Shortly after dawn, Pawar went on a tour of some affected regions of Baramati in the district and spent time with the farmers to understand their summer challenges.

Pawar, 83, visited some of the worst-affected villages like Undawadi (KP), Supe, Risepise, and Rajouri and also went around a cattle camp at Zhendewadi in different parts of the district, said his aides.

Received by the peasantry and their families, plus the farm workers, Pawar had a glimpse of the grim situation they currently encounter in the middle of summer, with the monsoon at least 50-60 days away.

“The farmers informed that they are facing alarming scarcity of drinking water, insufficient water for agriculture and their cattle, plus a shortage of fodder… Pawar Saheb gave them a patient hearing and understood their predicament,” said the aide.

The weathered Pawar, not sporting a cap or sunglasses, took a bird’s eye view of some of the local farms and witnessed the parched, cracking earth with not a blade of grass visible as the fiery sun roasted the region with 40 degrees Celsius plus temperatures, and occasionally a cloud of dust was blown off by a sporadic gust of warm breeze.

Later, the NCP-SP supremo addressed the groups of farmers on the scenario and promised to take up the issue with the district administration.

In his address, he recalled his early days in 1965 when he took his first youthful steps in grassroots politics and saw the drought problems in the region which barely got 6-7 inches of annual rainfall, but all the water flowed away.

He later organised and inspired the locals to take measures to save this water in ponds and percolation tanks which could help the villagers, farmers, agriculture and livestock, creating over 300 big and small lakes.

Pawar also recalled his 10-year tenure as Union Agriculture Minister under Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, when he started with practically empty granaries all over India with barely six weeks of food stocks available, and regular imports being the norm. However, working diligently till the end of his two terms handling the ‘un-coveted Agriculture portfolio’, Pawar said proudly that by 2014, not only was India food self-sufficient but had surpluses enabling exports of foodgrains to 18 countries.

He also assured to take up the question of insufficient fodder supply for the cattle with the district authorities and to make arrangements for supplying water through water tankers.

A veteran of Baramati politics for over 55 years, he is believed to have endeared himself to the peasantry with his unexpected outing to the farmers and informal interactions showing concerns for the farmers’ plight – the implications were not lost on the electorate as his daughter and Baramati Lok Sabha candidate Supriya Sule faces her ‘bhabhi’ (sister-in-law) Sunetra A. Pawar, the wife of Nationalist Congress Party chief and Deputy CM Ajit A. Pawar, in the seat.

A state NCP-SP leader said: “Pawar Saheb’s half-day outing would help achieve a lot, not only for the Baramati tillers but the farming community across the state.”

In fact, barely a couple of days ago, around 10,000 villagers in the Khairewadi area of Shivajinagar, hit by a water crisis for many weeks, had publicly protested with banners proclaiming: “No Water, No Votes” and threatened to boycott the LS polls.

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