Maharashtra farmers' strike hits supplies: Will Fadnavis govt give in?
Farmers in Maharashtra have gone on strike since early morning on 1 June. As a mark of protest they have stopped transportation of agro products across the state. Their demands include a complete farm loan waiver, increase in Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee's recommendations.
After the strike began, in many parts of the state farmers began patrolling highways and roads and intecepted vehicles transporting agricultural produce to the market. In many places, the agitators threw the confiscated vegetables and milk on the road.
Various farmers’ organisations and Opposition parties have been demanding a complete loan waiver for farmers for more than a year now. Farmers’ organisation Shektari Kranti Morcha had warned the government that it would organise a farmers' strike if its demands are not met before 1 June.
Given the gravity of the problem, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met the representatives of farmers at his residence at Mumbai on 29 May. However, the meeting proved to be futile and the farmers went on strike on 1 June.
“We have been demanding crop loan waiver and implementation of the recommendations of Swaminathan Committee. We have protested several times but the government didn't pay any heed. Due to this, we were forced to go on strike. It will continue till 4 June. We will decide on 4 June whether to extend the strike,” said said Jeevajerao Suryavnashi, a farmer leader from Aurangabad.
As a mark of solidarity with the farmers, 3500 milk collection centres and 500 cold storages in Ahmednagar district were closed. As a result regular daily supply of 10 lakh litres of milk from the district to Mumbai, was disrupted.
Similarly, protesters stopped supply of 12 lakh litres of milk to Mumbai from Kolhapur and Sangli districts. Farmers from Talki Dhokeshwar in Ahmednagar district formed a vigilante group to intercept vehicles transporting agriculture products to markets. They stopped thousands of vehicles headed for markets in Mumbai and Thane district.
“We will not settle for anything less than complete loan waiver and MSP that is one and a half times the production cost. We gave the government enough time to fulfil our demands,” said Suryavanshi.
The strike turned violent as farmers damaged trucks and other vehicles in various parts of the state. Agitating farmers destroyed huge stock of onions brought to Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon Basvant Agriculture Produce Market Committees (AMPC) in Nashik district. Similarly, the animal market at Niphad in the district too remained closed due to the strike. Agitating farmers pelted stones at police vehicles.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar has appealed the farmers to resolve the crisis.
“Violence and agitation cannot resolve anything. Farmers should discuss their issues with the government and we will work towards a solution. One futile meeting is not the end of the road,” he said.
While farmers in most of the parts of the state were on strike and did not allow agriculture produce to be transported to the market, Mumbai APMC functioned normally.
“There is no shortage of vegetables and fruits in the market as around 450 trucks arrived in the market today. The onion, potato and fruit supplies were normal today,” said Ashok Walunj, onion and patato trader from Mumbai APMC.
Sarjerao Sakpal, vegetable trader from Mumbai APMC said, “Today the market functioned smoothly. But noting can be said about tomorrow. Since we are not sure whether the goods will come in tomorrow.”
Walunj said that half the vegetable, onion and potato come to Mumbai APMC from other states. While potato and onion came from North India, other fruits and vegetables came from South India.
“Since Mumbai APMC is not dependent on supplies from Maharashtra, there wouldn't be much of a problem,” he said.
The effect of the strike was also diluted because farmers in districts like Palghar did not support the strike.