(Image: The Quint/Sheldon Healy)

Malnourishment to Meeting Bhujbal, Pankaja Back in Controversies

Mumbai is the mother of ironies. The wealthiest metropolitan area in the country shares border with Palghar, one of the most backward districts of Maharashtra. If government numbers are to be believed, 208 malnourished children have already died in the tribal district in the first eight months of this year.

The unofficial figures of the deaths go beyond 1,000. The condition is so bad that prohibitory order (sec 144 of CrPC) was imposed in two villages of Mokhada taluka ahead of Rural Development, Women and Child Welfare Minister Pankaja Munde’s visit. Munde claims that she wasn’t aware of the order.

It was decided by the local administration. This comes under the police, not me. However, I asked them that there was no such need for the order but police officials wanted it to be imposed and I could not interfere in their work.
Pankaja Munde

Opposition slammed the move to stop assembly of people in an area where death of two children had taken place.

It is shocking that when children are dying due to the malnourishment, the ministers are worried about their security and backlash. 
Ashok Chavan, state president of Congress

After severe criticism, section 144 was withdrawn. But that wasn’t the end of controversies for Pankaja Munde. One more death of a malnourished child from Jawhar taluka came to light on the day of her visit.

Tribal Affairs minister Vishnu Sawra had faced the anger of tribals during his visit to Palghar last week. The protests were led by Shramjeevi Sanghatana, an organisation working in the field of malnourishment and led by local MLA Vivek Pandit.

The issue is that of the sensitivity of the administration. How many more deaths are needed for them act sensitively?
Vivek Pandit, MLA, Shramjeevi Sanghatana

After completing her visit on Wednesday, Pankaja Munde said that the administration has geared up and the government is serious about handling the malnourishment issue.

Eyebrows Raised as Pankaja Meets Bhujbal

While the Fadnavis government in Maharashtra is taking a tough stand against corruption, Pankaja Munde called on scam accused NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who is recuperating at JJ hospital in Mumbai following an illness.

Bhujbal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in March in connection with a money laundering case. The former Chief Minister, who has been lodged at Arthur Road Jail, was admitted in the Intensive Care Unit of JJ hospital on 17 September, after he complained of fever, weakness and headache.

Pankaja’s father Gopinath Munde had shared stage with fellow OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal at several occasions. Although Panakaja met him to inquire about his health, the timing is important. While protests rallies have united Marathas, Pankaja meeting Bhujbal can also be seen as coming together of OBC forces.

Pankaja Munde shares a lukewarm relationship with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and has openly expressed her ambition to be the chief minister of the state.