Pune (Maharashtra), Feb 26 (IANS) Over 3,000 deaf-mute youth and students from across Maharashtra called off their two-day-old agitation after the state government conceded a majority of their demands, here on Tuesday.
The development came over 24 hours after they were brutally caned by the Pune Police for staging an agitation outside the Social Welfare Commissionerate, sparking off huge political outrage.
The youth wanted permission to discuss their issues with the officials and stage a long march to Mumbai to submit their demands to the government during the ongoing Maharashtra Legislature budget session, but after the police action they staged a night-long hunger strike and a candle-light vigil.
Taking serious note, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis sent Minister of State for Social Welfare Dilip Kamble to meet the protesters here in the morning.
Since there was no sign language expert available, for several hours there was no communication, but later in the evening the minister announced that their major demands were accepted by the government and the rest would be cleared by the Chief Minister.
Kamble also read out a statement made in the Assembly by Social Justice Minister Rajkumar Badole on their demands.
These include opening of higher secondary schools for hearing and speech impaired students, opening of junior colleges for them in Latur and Nashik, appointing sign language experts in all government schools and also in two vocational training institutes in all districts.
They would also be entitled to certain concessions to enable them secure driving licences and get government jobs for which the necessary orders would be issued within a week.
After these assurances, many of the fasting youth accepted fruit juice offered by Kamble to break their fast, and later volunteers from the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar, in Pune Camp locality, served them food.
The protesters started moving back to their homes, but their leaders warned that if all the demands were not conceded as promised, they would boycott the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
In Monday’s caning incident, at least 33 youth, including several girls, were injured, leading to a political furore.
The incident was strongly condemned by the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and other social groups as video clips of the lathi-charge went viral on social media.
There are around 1.80 million hearing and speech impaired people in the state who encounter massive problems in securing a good education, proper jobs and leading normal lives in the social mainstream.