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A Shield for the Hapless Farmers

Special IGP, Nashik Range, Pratap Dighvakar has emerged as a big protector for the farmers of Nashik. Forming special teams, he is going after the shifty traders who refuse to pay the farmers after buying their crops.
Indian Masterminds Stories

Nashik may be the vegetables and fruits bowel of Maharashtra, accounting for supplying 80 percent of grapes, onions, and vegetables to the rest of the country. But its farmers are far from happy. Till recently, a large number of them would be duped by unscrupulous traders from big cities, who would buy the produce from the farmers but default on the payments.

This looting of farmers’ hard-earned crops went unabated continued for long- until on the scene arrived a farmer turned senior IPS officer Mr. Pratap Dighvakar.

Mr. Pratap Dighavkar, IGP, Nashik Range

To say that Mr. Dighvakar, posted as Special IG (Nashik range) in September 2020, has put the fear of God among the erring traders would be an understatement. Within days of taking charge as the IGP, Dr. Pratap recovered several crore rupees from the traders who were unwilling to pay their dues to the farmers.

IT STARTED WITH A PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT

Nashik, despite being famous for its 3000-acre Sula Vineyard, is known more for its vegetables and fruit production. However, the issue of fraudulent behavior by the traders has been prevailing for a long time now.

Mr. Sachin Patil, SP Nashik Rural region while speaking with Indian Masterminds said, “the major problem was that the perishable products which the farmers were selling had to be sold within a short span of time. Because of this, the local traders were taking advantage of the situation. They used to buy the produce and then willfully default on the payments.”

Nashik exports 80% of grapes, onion & vegetables in India

Mr. Pratap Dighwakar, the Special IGP at Nashik range, was aware of the situation; since 2019, as many as 24 complaints against several traders were registered and pending investigations. Within a week of his posting, Mr. Dighwakar directed all the Superintendents of Police (SPs) to start an “announcement drive” in the district to register complaints against the fraudulent traders who had cheated the farmers. Apart from this, announcements were also made through newspapers and the official social media handles of the police.

Such was the thundering response to the “announcement drive” that the number of farmers’ complaints against big city traders jumped from 24 to over 500 in a matter of 21 days!

Sachin Patil, SP, Nashik Rural (Left) Pratap Dighavkar, IGP, Nashik Range (Right)

After verifying the complaints, the Nashik police registered several cases against these unscrupulous trades. It was found that the farmers had been cumulatively duped of Rs 18.69 crores.

 Said Mr Patil, “With the announcement, many more farmers also started approaching the police stations and exposed their past experiences with the deceptive traders. As a first measure, we made some policemen to intervene in the disputes, at first trying for a compromise so that the farmers could get their dues.

“Police teams were also formed to track the traders from outside of Nashik district in other districts as well. When we knocked their doors, many traders quietly made the payments. Up until now, the farmers have received dues amounting to Rs 2 crore, and 79 FIRs have been registered against the traders.’’

CONNECTION WITH THE FARMERS

Mr. Dighwakar was brought up in a farmer’s family, in a small village Litania near Nashik town. Till the age of 16, he worked with his family as a farmer. He finally cleared UPSC when he was 35.

Growing up in a farmer’s family made him know first-hand the kinds of problems a farmer goes through. Often at the mercy of natural forces beyond his control- such as rains, floods, and droughts- to get a healthy yield from crops, he then falls prey to market forces which he seldom understands.

Farmer-turned-IAS officer Pratap Dighavkar

It was probably this insight into a farmer’s sufferings which spurred Mr. Dighwakar to after the traders. Mr. Dighwakar has been honored with several awards during his 20 years of service as an IPS officer. Some of these include the Indira Priyadarshini Vrikshamitra Award (the Government of India’s Highest Award of Plantation & Forestation), Vanshree Award (Highest State Award for Plantation & Forestation), and the Late A.P.J Kalam Award for Innovation and Governance in Public Service.


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