As perishable produce begins to rot, Maha farmers' strike loses steam
The farmers’ strike in Maharashtra may have been described as a historical one, but it has been losing momentum with each passing day. Farmers, losing patience and incurring losses daily, are also losing their patience with the infighting and indecision among their leaders.
Now, the core committee of the Kisan Kranti Shetkari Sanghatana, which launched the farmers’ agitation at Puntamba village in Ahmednagar district on 25 May, has decided to call off the strike.
Puntamba has been the epicentre of the strike that virtually crippled vegetable and other agriculture products supply in the state. Now that the core committee at Puntamba has backed off, supply to markets at Pune, Nashik and Mumbai have returned to normalcy and there has been a drastic fall in prices.
However, farmer leaders and organisations are still divided. After the core committee at Puntamba led by Dr Dhananjay Dhanwde called off the strike, the other core committee formed at Nashik, now called as ‘steering committee’, has opposed the decision and will meet later on 8 June to decide on a course of action.
When contacted Dr Dhanwade said, “The first phase of the agitation that began on 25 May is over. The steering committee will decide future course of action. We have decided to send the produce to market as farmers are facing financial losses due to the strike. In view of the problems, it was decided to supply the produce to local market to avoid further losses.”
Sources say that the leaders who want to continue the strike are under tremendous pressure from farmers as the financial losses are growing with each passing day to call off the strike. While the leaders are not willing to do so, they will partially relax the strike by allowing farmers to send their produce to markets to avoid further financial losses.
The steering committee comprises of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti, Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raghunathdada Patil, MLA Bachchu Kadu.
According to Dhanwade, it is becoming difficult for farmers to store perishable produce such as milk and vegetable for too long.
“Farmers have been storing hundreds of litres of milk of last seven days. Now it is not possible for us to store it any further. It has become a logistical as well as financial problem for us. The milk cooperatives make weekly payments and farmers have not been paid for one week as they did not send milk to collection centres. Due to the practical difficulties, we have decided to allow farmers to send their produce to market,” Dr Dhanwade said.
This decision taken by farmers at Puntamba has not gone down well with other farmer leaders. It has irked them to the extent that it is being termed as having prompted due to local politics of the village.
“We have come a long way from Puntamba village. The movement is no more centred there. It has now been moved to Nashik. The final decision will be taken here after the meeting later today,” said Raghunathdada Patil, adding that people should leave Puntamba.
“The agitation at Puntamba is history now. The villagers have brought in local politics and harmed the spontaneous movement started in the state. The decision taken at Puntamba to send the perishable produce to markets has nothing to do with the steering committee. It is their decision,” Patil said.
He again blamed Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan leaders Jayajirao Suryavanshi and Sandeep Gidde for dividing the farmers. “It is because of them that the movement suffered a blow. The strike is still on and continue till the demands are met,” Patil said.