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Have morchas and dharnas lost impact?
Taking out morchas and staging dharnas are some of the most common activities during winter session of the state legislature. Nagpur, the second capital of Maharashtra, has got used to this over the years. Many people come from remotest parts of the state to press for their demands.

HOWEVER, DWINDLING number of morchas and participants raise an important question: have morchas lost impact value? Is the method of taking out morcha relevant anymore? An interesting picture emerged after speaking to some of the participants of morchas and political leaders cutting across party lines.

While the participants and political leaders belonging to opposition parties felt that impact value of morchas had declined substantially over the years, politicians with the ruling side felt that quantity of morchas had dwindled as the government had addressed the demands of people.

Prof Deepak Gokhale, a teacher fighting against non-teaching duties being given to teachers, felt that taking out morcha was not easy. "Today, unfortunately, delegations have become so common for leaders that they tend to ignore delegations. Sometimes, we strongly feel that impact of morchas is decreasing," he rued.

Harish Pawar, who is fighting for welfare of auto-rickshaw drivers, agreed with Prof. Gokhale. "In pre-Independence period, rallies and marches had a great impact and British rulers were shaken by them. And, in independent India now, it appears that our own government is not interested in resolving issues confronting the people. Our long pending demands will be kept pending again. Next time, again, we will come to the same spot during same period pressing for same demands," Pawar said, with a tinge of sarcasm in his tone.

He went a step ahead and said that if the government's attitude remained the same in future also, slowly people would become more aggressive in putting forward their demands. A cancer patient, Suresh Kale is on a sit-in (dharna) to press for demand of opening one more government cancer hospital in Vidarbha. He said there were a lot many problems related to cancer patients and the only Government Cancer Hospital had tremendous workload. "It was time for the government to start another such hospital in the region," Kale said. Unfortunately, he felt, none of the concerned authorities took a serious note of dharna staged by cancer patients. "We just have to wait," he added with lament.

Mukund Adewar from Sangharsh Vahini was straight-forward in his opinion. "It is for sure that impact value of morcha and dharna has gone down. Ministers and leaders are working for themselves," he said. He also brought out an important aspect that has reduced impact value of morcha and dharna. "Organisations working for the same cause do not come together. Intellectuals tend not to work together for a long time. This leaves all moving ahead with individual efforts and this leads to decline in impact value. There is no way but to continue struggle in this manner," he observed.

Another significant reason behind decline in number of morchas and dharnas is related to expenditure. According to Adewar, bigger morcha meant higher cost for making food, stay, and transportation arrangements for participants. Not all the organisations were financially sound enough to bear these expenses. This made the task of taking out bigger morcha difficult. "Number of participants also has a telling effect on impact value of morcha and dharna," he added.

The frequency of morchas has declined over the years because not all the organisations think it fit to resort to this method. Take, for instance, ex-servicemen. They think that taking out morcha would send a wrong message to the world that the Indian Government did not respect ex-servicemen. Sandesh Singhalkar, an ex-servicemen said, "It took us 25 years to meet Chief Minister to discuss our issue. Others at least catch attention by staging dharna and taking out morcha but we can not do the same. It is so painful to see that people of the world's strongest democracy have to suffer a lot for their demands."

Leaders Speak

While agitators say that impact value of morcha and dharna has gone down, leaders of various political parties have different view-points.

Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MLA: "Yes, it is true that impact value of agitation has gone down because the Government has become insensitive towards the problems of common people. Of course, agitation for demands is sign of healthy democracy, but not responding to them is sign of insensitivity. The Government takes note when agitators go violent. But, agitators going violent is not good for society."

Jayprakash Gupta, Congress city chief: "I don't agree that impact value of agitations has gone down. It depends upon seriousness of the issue also. Same demands have been raised by thousands of leaders. As a result of this, impact value of agitation has gone down over the years. Internal conflict amongst leaders plays an important role in putting forward the demands."

Ajay Patil, NCP city chief: I feel that the Government has been successful in fulfilling demands of people and therefore, number of morchas has gone down. I don't feel that impact value of morchas has not gone down. Mayor, Guardian Minister and other representatives are available throughout the year, but everyone wants to meet Chief Minister only, which is not possible. Also, leaders who are putting forward problems of people before the Government should have selfless approach. Otherwise, many times, it is observed that representatives are more interested in 'Netagiri' and nothing more.

Ashish Jaiswal, Shiv Sena MLA: Yes, it is true that impact value of morcha has gone down, which is an indication of insensitivity of the Government. As a result, common man is left with no other option than to continue his fight for his rights. The Government needs to take note of this.

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