Protests led by Sambhajiraje called off after CM rushes minister to Pune with promises

Protests led by Sambhajiraje called off after CM rushes minister to Pune with promises

Minister Eknath Shinde met Rajya Sabha MP Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati in Pune on Saturday. (Express Photo by Ashish Kale)

A hunger strike launched by students at SARTHI (Shahu Research and Training Institute) over alleged apathy shown by the state government towards the organisation was called off after state Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde promised to fulfill all their demands.

The protest was organised by Maratha Kranti Morcha (MKK) under the leadership of Rajya Sabha member Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati at the SARTHI office in the city to raise the students’ demands, which include preserving the autonomy of the organisation and paying monthly stipend to the students on time.

“The strike was organised to demand reappointment of D S Parihar as its director as he was the driving force in running the institute. The government should also release funds for proper functioning of the institute,” said Sambhajiraje.

He alleged that several secretary-level officials from the Chief Minister’s office have been involved in hampering the functioning of SARTHI. He demanded that the government should remove such officers or hand over the charge of the institute to other officers.

“SARTHI is an important institution but some officials in the government and others are planning to close it down and trying to defame it but I will not allow that to happen,” Sambhajiraje said in a tweet.

Shinde said all the decisions taken by J P Gupta, principal secretary of the state OBC department, have been cancelled. "He will also be removed from the post," he said.

Sambhajiraje had opposed the government resolutions issued by Gupta on the operations of SARTHI, and demanded that the government official be sacked.

Shinde said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had directed him to rush to Pune and meet Sambhajiraje.

Announcing that the government was committed to the autonomy of SARTHI, the minister said the government will fight the Maratha reservation case in the Supreme Court.

Sambhajiraje said Thackeray had called him up on Friday morning, promised to take up all the demands and urged him to withdraw his fast. “However, I told him that I was representing the students and the government should make the promise before the students,” he said.

In December 2016, as the Maratha agitation was going on across the state, then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced the decision to set up SARTHI, which was set up on the lines of the Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Technical Institution (BARTI). The institute was finally set up in 2018 for the welfare and training of students from the Maratha community.

With PTI inputs