The tempo built up days ahead of the winter session of state legislature reached a high pitch on the first day of the state legislature's winter session on Monday. The members, cutting across partylines in the legislative council, raised voices creating pandemonium and vociferously demanded that the government alleviates the sufferings of the hapless cotton growers of Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh.
The government was blamed for adopting wrong policies forcing farmers to commit suicide in the region every day. The members demanded announcement of a relief package immediately to bailout the crisis-ridden farmers.
Lashing out at the wrong agriculture policy, Congress member S Q Zama even said that it was a shame on the part of the government heading a progressive state in the country where farmers commit suicide every day. "Maharashtra has no right to call itself a progressive state till the farmers continued to embrace death due to agrarian crisis. This apart from the hundreds of malnutrition deaths in tribal parts in the state," Zama said.
The activists of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha damaged several cars of the Maharashtra ministers in Civil Lines area in protest against the meagre rate of minimum support price for the raw cotton. The vehicles of ministers whose cars were damaged include: the Maharashtra Forest minister, Patangrao Kadam, the Maharashtra minister for Tribal Welfare, Babanrao Pachpute and the Maharashtra minister for Higher Education, Rajesh Tope.
The Sadar police have registered offences in this regard. However, no one was arrested so far.
He wondered as to why did the government ban cotton export when cotton was getting a very good price in the international market. "If we accept global economy and adopted the liberalisation policy why is it not with the farm produce?" Zama asked and alleged that the export policy on agriculture products in the country is purely political. He demanded a transparent export policy beneficial to farmers.
On the issue of giving relief package to debt-ridden farmers, the Congress member even suggested to wind up metro rail projects in the state's big cities and divert the fund to bail out the distressed farmers. "We can wait for another 10 years for metro rails. But can’t allow poor farmers to commit suicide any more. Now the time has come to decide priorities of the government," he added.
There is a need to change the existing policy that suits the farmers in the state, particularly the cotton growers of Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh, he said and suggested a change in mechanism for fixing the support price of agriculture produce in the country. He also demanded that the government should come out with a relief package for the cotton, soyabean and paddy growers.
Initiating a debate under rule 97 on the deteriorating conditions of cotton, soyabean and paddy growers who were not getting a better price, the leader of opposition in the Council Pandurang Phundkar accused the government for being insensitive towards the issue. Blaming the government for not increasing the minimum support price of raw cotton citing election code of conduct, he said that the chief minister preferred to keep mum despite farmers organizations launching agitation for the last one and half months and two MLAs went on an indefinite hunger strike to highlight the issue.
The NCP member Arun Gujarati asked what was the basis for fixing the minimum support price of Rs 3,300 for the raw cotton when the prices touched Rs 7,000 per quintal last year.
"The cotton growers in the state want justice and the government should come out with a relief package on per hectare basis immediately," he said.
The Shiv Sena members, Diwakar Raote, Ramdas Kadam, and Pasha Patel of BJP also spoke on the issue and demanded packages for farmers.
Earlier, the upper house witnessed an uproarious scene on the opening day of the session as the Opposition Sena-BJP legislators tried to stall the house proceeding by tabling an adjournment motion on the plights of cotton growers in Vidarbha and some other parts of the state. However, the house chairman, Shivajirao Deshmukh rejected the motion and allowed them to discuss the issue under section of 97 of the House rule.
In Assembly, the opposition members disrupted the proceedings demanding compensation for the farmers in distress. As the first day’s proceedings began, opposition members started sloganeering demanding an announcement by the government on the issue. The Sena-BJP members also protested by wearing black clothes and caps made of cotton balls. In response to Opposition’s demand, the government offered to hold debate on the issue but the former was not in a mood for the same. Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil who had adjourned the house thrice due to the ruckus created by the Opposition, finally adjourned the proceedings for the day. The Opposition is likely to continue with its demand even on the second day on Tuesday.